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Complex structural and multifunctional Parts from enhanced Wood-based Composites - eWPC

Final Report Summary - BIOSTRUCT (Complex structural and multifunctional parts from enhanced wood-based composites - eWPC)

Executive Summary:
BioStruct was a large-scale collaborative project funded by the European Commission. The project involved 21 partners from 10 European countries, and had a total budget of around 10 million. The project was carried out over a period of 48 months from September 2008 to August 2012.

The project was set up to overcome the most important problems in the application of reinforced bio-composites by combining material development and process development in an integrated approach. In close collaboration with polymer, fibre and additive producers, compounders within the consortium developed new material formulations to fit end-user requirements from four different industrial sectors: automotive, construction, electronics and packaging. In parallel, process developers optimised and adapted injection moulding and extrusion technology to process these new materials under optimum conditions with the highest possible production rate.

BioStruct focused on several different aspects of material and process development to facilitate later commercialisation:
1)Natural fibre development wood based cellulose fibres as well as regenerated fibres
2)Matrix and additive material development new bio-based polyamide systems as well as bio-based additives for PLA modification
3)Compound development material formulations to fit the end-user needs
4)Compounding technology development improved dispersion, reduced material degradation and new fibre feeding routes
5) Injection moulding adapted processes to achieve the best possible material properties
6) Extrusion technology for construction parts combining eWPC extrusion with functional top-layers for improved flame retardancy
7) Case study development testing the BioStruct material in real world applications in the construction, automotive, electronics and packaging industries

In parallel to this BioStruct carried out a study of industrial standards and economic and ecological evaluations of the project results to avoid potential problems in the later market entry.

By the end of the project BioStruct had successfully developed several new materials, such as dosable milled cellulose fibres for high-impact material formulations which can also bring additional functionalities into the compound, dosable wood fibres for good mechanical properties at economic prices, new bio-based polyamides with mild processing conditions and good fibre-matrix interaction, and new bio-based PLA modifications showing improved impact behavior, higher heat deflection temperatures and better processing. In the area of processing BioStruct has achieved new machinery configurations allowing easy processing and the best possible material properties with economic process output. Emission levels could be reduced significantly; fibres could be impregnated using supercritical fluids and fibre length maintained in compounding as well as injection moulding. BioStruct has furthermore developed new bio-hybrid processes combining plywood inserts with BioStruct thermoplastic materials. In extrusion a multilayer structure with a flame retardant top-layer was achieved, passing important fire tests.

Project Context and Objectives:
CONTEXT

Oil has been the predominant resource for the production of polymeric materials and composites for several decades now. Polymers are synthesised based on petroleum-based monomers and fibres used for the reinforcing of these materials are mainly glass and carbon fibres. Nevertheless the increasing demand for oil, reduced production rates and political instability in important oil-producing regions have let to drastically higher prices for oil-based products in the past decades including polymers. In long-term it can be foreseen that this trend will continue and that the use of crude oil as a basis for polymers will be limited to fewer and fewer products.

This general trend combined with a more positive attitude of the end-customer towards bio-based products has stimulated the development of bio-based polymers and composites in the past decade. This has resulted in a steep growth in bio-based polymer production, predominantly driven by the use and production of polylactic acid based polymers, so called PLA. The biggest consumer of these polymers at present is the packaging sector, where a certain bio-degradability also fits into the needs of this sector.

Nevertheless the second material partner in the typical bio-composite the (wood-based) fibre has mainly been used as a cheap filler to reduce material costs for large volume products like decking and flooring, where wood flour with content of up to 80% was mainly used in extrusion processes.
On the other hand wood is regarded as one of the most promising sources for bio-based products and the corresponding industry of the future. The wood industry in the EU-25 is one of the largest industries in Europe. With a total turnover of 550-600 billon EUR the wood and forest-based and related industry contribute approximately 8% to the European total added value in the manufacturing industry. The wood industry employed more than 1.3 million people in 2005 and is among the top 3 branches in northern forest-based countries.

MAIN OBJECTIVES

The BioStruct project aimed to develop a long-term business and sustainability perspective for both the forestry and the polymer processing sector, and the end-users of both industries. In detail the aim was to develop materials and processing technologies to use wood based materials mainly fibres as reinforcing materials for technically more demanding high-tech applications in polymer parts instead of simply using the volume of wood as a cheap filler. To achieve these technical goals, and to design a clear route to market and a fast transition of the results to commercial success, end-users of the developed materials from different sectors (automotive, construction, electronics and packaging) participated in the BioStruct project.

To achieve a broad impact on the different business areas of the wood industry the BioStruct project was designed to address three out of the four main activity areas of the wood-industry. The sectors for wood products, paper and cellulose, and chemical raw materials directly benefit from BioStruct's developments. In detail BioStruct aimed to integrate the use of wood products (e.g. laminated wood structures for local reinforcement of injection moulded structural parts), the use of mechanically and chemically modified wood and cellulose fibres and the use of wood as a resource for building blocks for synthesised products (modified regenerated wood-based cellulose fibres) in a simultaneous approach.

Technically, despite a lot of research activities carried out in the field of wood-plastic composites, their commercial application in Europe is limited. The reasons for this are manifold:
1) Conventional wood-plastic composite technology offers only low material properties, like low impact strength and brittleness
2) Materials show inconsistent properties due to different fibre qualities
3) Temperature resistance is low
4) There is a strong smell and high emission levels and instability in humid conditions
5) Material processing technologies and shaping processes are not really adapted to the needs of this new class of materials

These drawbacks result in the use of WPCs in mostly low-cost applications where wood fibres are used as low-cost fillers. BioStruct on the other hand aimed to develop the next generation of wood based composites, so-called enhanced wood based composites eWPCs, that can be used in demanding, high-value technical applications. The aim was to develop eWPCs by an integrated approach, combining material and process development, in the field of:
Advanced chemical modifications for wood and cellulose fibres to increase compatibility with polymers and improve fibre-polymer interaction.
Insertion of functionalities into cellulose fibres, e.g. electrical conductivity or flame retardancy, allowing the use of eWPCs in technically demanding automotive, construction, packaging and electronics applications.
New bio-based engineering polymers, e.g. bio-based polyamide or modified polyesters, enabling the use of the new composites under harsh conditions.
Flexible, energy-efficient, integrated compounding processes that realise the full potential of the new materials.
Advanced processing technologies for eWPCs such as bio-hybrid technology, local reinforcement, foaming and sandwich technologies.
Economic and ecological assessment of these new materials for an optimal ecological/cost/benefit ratio.

In technical detail the overall development process in BioStruct can be broken down into several different areas of research activity:
1)In fibre development the main objective was to develop new wood-based fibre systems for the reinforcing of bio-polymer-composites and to synthesise new bio-based matrix polymers, achieving together fundamentally new properties which allow their use in applications with higher demands concerning temperature and mechanical stress. The aim was to achieve this firstly by chemical modification of cellulose fibres to achieve completely new fibre properties and better polymer interaction by advanced supercritical CO2 modification of the fibre. Secondly, the consortium proposed that the improvement of fibre quality and compatibility by pre-treatment of fibres would result in better composite properties. The preparation of conductive and magnetisable cellulose or fibre flame retardant fibres was planned to broaden the technical compatibility with similar matrix materials in technical applications.
2)In polymer development new synthesis routes for bio-based polymers (e.g. polyamide) as a matrix for eWPC were planned to give more flexibility in compound formulation without affecting the sustainability approach of BioStruct.
3)Starting from these newly developed materials with inherently better properties for composite manufacturing, the aim was to develop new and highly flexible compounding processes specially for these new materials. The consortium proposed the use of supercritical fluid technology and ultrasonic energy to increase dispersion efficiency, improve fibre/matrix interaction and to reduce emission levels by supercritical CO2 extraction. This inline technology using inline degassing and extraction technologies based on compressed and supercritical gasses can reduce low molecular weight components causing emissions during downstream processes and during use. The development of specially designed twin-screw-compounding processes was aiming for low shear and low temperature compounding resulting in better material properties. A similar effect was expected from the use of planetary extruders that increase elongational flow and reduce processing temperatures.
4)With new materials being developed, the analysis and development of suitable shaping processes is of very high importance to achieve better properties in the products as well. BioStruct therefore developed bio-hybrid technology, using local reinforcements made from laminated plywood or coiled natural endless fibre inserts, to achieve excellent mechanical and dimensional stability in injection moulded parts. The use of natural fibre direct compounding injection moulding processes for large automotive parts was planned to further reduce fibre breakage.
5)At the end of the value chain BioStruct aimed to test the new materials in high value technical applications in several business areas: automotive, packaging, construction and electronics. The aim of these demanding case studies was to demonstrate the material potential in several diverse technical applications which all require a specific material profile, ranging from high impact to stiffness, demands for flame retardancy of low emission properties.

Project Results:
1. Introduction

The BioStruct project has been working for 4 years on the development of enhanced wood-plastic composites (eWPCs) that can be used in demanding, high-value technical applications. In its four years BioStruct followed an integrated approach, combining material and process development, in several fields:

Advanced chemical modifications for wood and cellulose fibres to increase compatibility with polymers and improve fibre-polymer interaction by controlled cellulose extraction and functionalization.
Insertion of functionalities into cellulose fibres, e.g. electrical conductivity or flame retardancy, allowing the use of eWPCs in technically demanding automotive, construction, packaging and electronics applications.
New bio-based engineering polymers e.g. bio-based polyamide or modified polyesters enabling the use of the new composites under harsh conditions.
Flexible, energy-efficient, integrated compounding processes that realise the full potential of the new materials.
Advanced processing technologies for eWPCs such as bio-hybrid technology, local reinforcement, foaming and sandwich technologies.
Economic and ecological assessment of these new materials for an optimal ecological/cost/benefit ratio.

This report summarises the results of the project. It aims to give a very condensed view of the work carried out over 4 years, highlighting some key results. The report is structured in several sections summarizing the main results and achievements in the following areas of the project:

Definition of requirements early work carried out in WP 1
Fibre development reflecting work mainly carried out in WP 2 and 3
Matrix polymer and compound development reflecting work carried out in WP 4
Material production technologies WP 5
Shaping technologies WP 6
Application development WP 7
Evaluation of the project results WP 8
Dissemination and training WP 9

2 Definition Of Requirements

The objective of this work, which was mainly carried out in the initial phase of the BioStruct project, was to define in an early stage specifications for the materials and processes to be developed in BioStruct, based on industrial case studies. These specifications then shaped the development process, maintaining its focus on the production of materials for technically demanding applications.
It is well known that different application areas, like automotive, construction or electronics, each have specific individual requirements that arise from individual legislations, special technical or processing requirements, or recycling standards imposed on or established by the industry. It was therefore very important in the early phase of the project to summarise these requirements to avoid potential problems in the later application of the newly developed materials in industrial applications. In WP1 the demonstration parts were therefore defined and selected by the partners and the requirements for:

General material properties and testing standards
Processing properties
Legal standards
Other standards (recycling, etc.) were summarised in several subtasks for each case study.

The selected products in the BioStruct project represent important sectors such as the automotive industry, construction, packaging and household appliances, most of which have challenging requirements, pushing the limits of the technology and the material properties of eWPCs. The feedback received from the end-users already showed some clear tendencies:

For the case study construction, important mechanical properties were long-term stability and humidity control, but the key issue seemed to be flame retardancy
For the case study packaging BioStruct aimed to replace polyethylene, whose main strength in the application was its excellent low temperature impact behavior
For the case study electronics again flame retardancy and optical appearance were identified as important factors
In the case study automotive, temperature stability and corresponding dimensional stability seemed to be the main issues.

For each case study typical production technologies were used. For most of the demonstration parts injection moulding was the preferred processing technology, but extrusion was also used within BioStruct to process the parts for the case study construction. Because processing can be a challenge especially for newly developed materials, the BioStruct project focused on the requirements of the individual production technologies used by the partners. In an initial step, processing equipment used in the target areas was reviewed, and current machine parameters were compiled. The main processing factors of interest were:

Machine and tooling size.
Temperature limitations.
Pressure and pressure limitations.
Residence time.
Machine configurations.
Fibre humidity and formation of other gases.
Shear rate during plasticization and injection steps.

A key problem was identified that affects all newly developed materials: current processes are generally developed and optimised for the main materials used for the production of the individual part, which are in the case of BioStruct, oil-based polyamide (PA), polypropylene (PP), polyethylene (PE), high-impact polystyrene (HIPS) and acrylonitrile butadiene styrene (ABS). New materials can often be processed in the machines, and moulds can be developed for these materials, but this equipment is often not ideal. Shrinkage in particular was identified as a key issue.
In a next step the BioStruct project focused on specific standards required for the individual applications, targeting the legal aspects and specific testing standards for each individual case study. It was found that there are some general tests that can be performed to indicate feasibility, but there are as many individual tests specific to the particular case study and additional customer requirements which cannot be generalised. However some general conclusions could be made for each case study.

3 Fibre Development - work mainly carried out in WP 2 And 3

The main aim of the work carried out in the area of fibre development was the production of processed wood-based and man-made cellulose fibres for enhanced wood plastic composites with improved strength and water, temperature and fire resistance.
3.1 Wood Fibre Development

In the area of wood-based fibre development the work focused on the selection, production and characterisation of innovative wood-derived fibre materials with predominantly physical modification methods. The materials used were mostly natural wood fibres, such as bleached chemical pulps and thermo-mechanical pulps from the pulp and paper industry. The aim was to find the best fibre types and delivery form for wood fibres and enhance the fibre-plastic interactions in wood plastic composites. The suitability of the produced fibre materials was evaluated in a variety of tests, including the production and testing of WPCs from modified wood fibre materials.

In detail the work in this area of the BioStruct project focused on the following aspects:

Chemical modification of solubilised cellulose
Chemical functionalisation of surface activated fibres
Compatibilisers for wood-based compounds
Scaling up the fibre production

For the chemical modification of solubilised cellulose different approaches have been followed. As one major route, the production and modification of fibres using ionic liquids was investigated and evaluated. The results were very promising, and considerable quantities of fibres for compounding trials with improved mechanical properties could be obtained. However, the production of fibres using ionic liquids is currently not attractive from an economic and ecological point of view, due to problems of the recycling of the solvent, the high price of the liquids and the high viscosity of the solvents.

Using conventional solvents, conductive fibres and fibres with magnetic properties, which retained most of their reinforcing properties, could be obtained within the BioStruct project. This enabled us to produce eWPC compounds not only containing natural fibres as reinforcing elements but also additional functionalities, opening possibilities for the production of innovative products and new applications. It was possible to produce pilot scale quantities of electrically conductive fibres, and a large-scale production is possible at any time upon request.

At the beginning of the investigation the following issues and goals concerning the fibre development were summarised. Fibres should:

reinforce the wood-plastics materials (L/D ratio) and improve significantly the mechanical behaviour of the polymer matrix
be processable on compounding machines (dosing)
have a nice and smooth (aesthetic) surfaces of the final injection moulded part (dispersibility)
have uniformity of mechanical and dimensional properties

After achieving the appropriate results on a lab scale work focused on the scale-up the TENCEL® FCP manufacturing process.

Starting with the production of the standard TENCEL fibres the pilot plant, which could produce several tons of material per day, was adjusted to be able to run the precursor material for the TENCELA FCP. The precursor material is a fibre bale consisting of Lyocell staple fibre with a titer of 1,3dtex and a fibre length of 38mm. In order to apply the surface treatment some modification in the process had to be made. Roughly 14to of this specific type of fibres were produced and shipped to partners within the BioStruct project and customers interested in this BioStruct result.

4 Matrix Polymer And Compound Development

The main aims in the topic of polymer and compound development were:

Synthesis of bio-based polymer systems suitable for the production of eWPCs. A polyamide was therefore synthesised as matrix material for the compounding process.
Polylactic acid systems (PLA) were chemically modified for better impact properties
Development of bio-based additive systems for tailoring composite properties to individual processing and application needs
Development of compounds based on the materials and fibres developed within the project
â?¢ Scale-up production of material compositions for application in the industrial case studies of the project.

The overall objective was to achieve similar or superior adhesion behavior between all the constituents of the wood-based composite. In addition, the properties of these new matrix materials for other applications was studied.

In the area of synthesis of bio-based polymer systems there were two approaches:

Firstly BioStruct focused on the synthesis of completely bio-based polyamides 10.18 with particular engineering properties. The PA achieved was processable in the extruder with temperatures below 200°C, which made compounding with natural fibres possible. The performance of the obtained PA is not competitive with common thermoplastic PA materials of the PA 6 and PA6.6 class. Especially the HDT is not sufficient yet. Due to the limited availability of the bio-based diamines on the market, an up-scaling of the PA 10.18 has not taken place.

5 Material Production Technologies

The development of new material production technologies mostly compounding processes was a key element of the BioStruct project.

The objective of the integrated compounding process development was to develop new compounding processes that reveal the potential of the eWPC materials developed in the BioStruct project.
Based on the flexible compounding technology currently available in twin-screw and planetary extrusion technology, WP 5 first adapted these technologies with the aim of processing the new materials on conventional equipment. The new machinery configurations obtained can be used directly by interested compounding companies to start working with BioStruct materials. This will substantially facilitate the market introduction as no new investments into processing technologies have to be made. Starting from these adapted technologies BioStruct has furthermore developed advanced processing technologies: so-called integrated compounding processes. These new processing technologies aim for process intensification and consequently better material properties.

The first problem BioStruct addressed by processing developments was smell. Bio-based materials, as they are developed in BioStruct, often have a significant smell, technically called VOC (volatile organic components). These extensive VOC levels often limit the use of these materials in applications where clean and low smelling materials are required.

In extensive studies it was shown that PP and PLA matrix materials absorb US energy quite well, but the amount of transferred energy is drastically reduced as soon as bio-based fibres are introduced into the compound. With both milled man-made cellulose fibre and pelletised wood fibres no visible effect on dispersion could be found. The material properties remained unchanged.

Based on the assumption that all fibre-reinforced compounds achieve the best mechanical properties if the interface between the fibre surface and the matrix system can be controlled, BioStruct tried to develop new approaches to chemically couple matrix and fibres. In BioStruct different approaches were therefore developed to control this interface by:

Applying different surface coatings on the fibre
Adding peroxides to PP-based compounds to initiate radical based reactions between the fibre surface chemistry and the polymer
Adding modifiers into PA based compounds
Development of chemically modified PLA-based additives to achieve a better fibre matrix interaction in PLA based compounds

Planetary extrusion is well known in the processing of sensitive materials due to its very gentle processing and very precise temperature control. BioStruct therefore used this compounding process for eWPCs based on PP and PLA as matrix materials, and cellulose and wood fibres as reinforcing fibres.

The optimum fibre content for injection moulding formulations was set at a 30wt% of cellulose fibres. The dispersion of cellulose fibres in PP and PLA composites was very good on the planetary extruder configuration developed, whereas the dispersion of harder wood pellets was very difficult.

The project therefore developed optimised processing set-ups for BioStruct materials that allow their processing on specially configured conventional twin and planetary extruders.

The most critical issue in compounding natural fibre based composites is the low temperature stability of the natural cellulose, which is a major component in almost all bio-based fibres. Cellulose has an upper temperature stability limit of about 200°C, but degradation can also occur at lower temperatures, although it takes a lot longer to show visible browning of the material color. On the other hand economic processing often requires high processing temperatures to increase throughput of the material (see figure 10 in attachment).

BioStruct has developed screw profiles and processing set-ups that achieve the best possible fibre dispersion and lowest temperatures at reasonable output rates. With these set-ups material compounders interested in using BioStruct materials can directly start processing.

A key problem in the BioStruct project was the dosing of the man-made cellulose fibres to almost all compound processes due to their wool-like structure.
In order to enter the plastic compounds market it is necessary to provide a fibre that can be dosed on standard plastic dosing equipment. Issues which had to be taken into account were:

Bridging of the fibres
Static behavior of the fibres

The development of the milled cellulose fibre was a breakthrough in this area, resulting in a more or less free flowing fibre. In the milling process development a lot of parameters like mesh width, sieve-holder and number of cutting devices influence the results. No theoretical papers were found describing a scaling up process. Nevertheless the development resulted in a product predominately suitable for use in the compounding process. The fibres themselves were modified in terms of the surface area in order to achieve the appropriate adhesion to each other to be dosable.

Within the project several tons of milled fibre (TENCEL® FCP 10/480A) with uniform properties were produced and supplied to Biostruct partners for testing.

6 Shaping Technologies Development

In general the aim of this working area was to demonstrate the full potential of eWPC materials through their use in high-value technical applications and processing technologies.

As an alternative to bi-injection a new bio-hybrid injection moulding technology was developed in which the above mentioned inserts were used to locally reinforce large injection moulded parts. A new tool for multiple injection moulding technologies (standard, overmoulding, foaming and co-injection) was built and optimised to develop the bio-hybrid technology using different inserts as local reinforcement. The best reinforcement effect was achieved with the coiled endless flax/polymer insert.

Moreover, the integrated injection moulding-compounding process was studied as an alternative to the two separate processes (compounding + injection moulding), in order to reduce fibre degradation and energy consumption for high weight injection moulded parts.

Finally bio-based particle foams were produced using PP, PLA and cellulose fibres with different processing additives and blowing agents to obtain alternative bio-derived materials to conventional PS or PP-based particle foams.

The developed bio-hybrid technology permits the combination of eWPC compounds with plywood inserts as well as woven or coiled inserts to achieve high-performance parts for semi-structural applications.

In the BioStruct project four product families in the area construction, automotive, electronics and packaging were defined as case studies for e-WPC materials.

In the case study construction a wall panel was defined as demonstrator part and in order to realise this goal a co-extrusion process for a PLA-based profile was developed.

Since this was a novel approach to produce sandwich structures in a continuous one step process, a proper tool for co-extrusion process had to be designed and the whole development was split into two steps to learn about the process. The first step was the testing of the equipment and tool with polypropylene-based materials in order to gain knowledge and experience with the set-up. Secondly, from the lessons learned in the first trials, the tool and process had to be adapted to PLA-based materials, which were defined to be the final goal by the industrial partner ACCIONA.

Finally, three layer PLA profiles were created with and without flame retardants, which passed specific fire tests.

In parallel to the foam core development for the extruded profile BioStruct also worked on a broader approach in the area of foams.

Firstly preliminary trials were performed to gain knowledge about the foaming behaviour of PLA (with chemical and physical foaming agents) as well as with the set-upm where trials with PP grades were performed to learn about the technology set-up. Based on the results different modifications of the extrusion tool and foaming screw were made to achieve proper foaming and filling behavior in the profile. The technology proved successful, different materials such as PP, PLA, PS and bio-polyamide (Macromelt series by HENKEL)-PLA blends were used and finally sandwich structures made of PLA were produced.

7 Application Development

The aim of application development in BioStruct was to transfer material development and processing technology development to industrial prototype scale. The main objective was beside the development of scale-up routes for both materials and processes - to study the influence of scale-up on the material quality and to test the new materials and technologies in real-world applications to demonstrate their potential. Four different case studies were selected, all coming from different areas of polymer applications with different general requirements: automotive, packaging, electronics and construction.

In order to validate the materials for their final applications, different characterizations were carried out. These included flexural and tensile resistance, water absorption and fire resistance. The results have shown the capacity of the materials to be used in indoor wall applications.

8 Evaluation Of The Project Results

The three main impact areas of economics, environment and health were examined over the latter course of the project and when results became available from the partners. The evaluations were in some cases difficult to obtain due to the lab-scale nature of the work, so energy and cost estimations were made on the basis of background knowledge in some cases. In-depth studies were made to ensure that information was captured at all stages of the production processes.

Overall the results were positive for the health evaluation, with little concern being generated about the materials used. The environmental case for the BioStruct materials and processes was good, with sustainability and high performance goals achieved. The economic analysis highlighted that the predicted costs were too high to compete on a like-for-like basis with current WPCs, but that the continued interest in sustainability and the higher performance of BioStruct compounds would still allow some market penetration as the project finished. Reduced energy usage did seem to be possible which can be a compelling attribute as energy costs rise.

In the second area of evaluations - the environmental evaluation - it was challenging to give a representative idea of the environmental impact of the BioStruct project. Larger companies that trade on their environmental credentials, such as Lenzing or Henkel, carry out life-cycle assessments as a matter of course. They may have more of a say in how their waste materials are re-used or disposed of, due to economies of scale. Engineers in SMEs and academic institutions, carrying out laboratory-scale research and development work, would not normally be expected to provide such in-depth analysis of, for example, energy use, without some professional assistance. In many cases, production runs are so small as to offer no useful comparison with an industrial-scale process.

Lenzing's Lyocell process for producing Tencel cellulose fibres provides reductions in non-renewable energy use, greenhouse gas production, environmental toxicity effects, water use, and land use when compared with other Lenzing processes and materials (e.g. Viscose). The figures from NatureWorks analysis also demonstrate the environmental advantages of using biopolymers in place of petroleum-based polymers. These advantages become increasingly significant for larger companies when renewable-energy sources, whether or not they are owned by the company, are used in place of traditional, fossil-fuel sources.

It can also be concluded that the disposal of waste is a major factor in the environmental inventory of any activity or process, although SMEs do not necessarily have any control over what happens to their solid waste if it is disposed of with municipal waste.

It is also evident that the primary fuel source, particularly in the case of electricity, has a major impact on the environmental credentials of a project. Larger companies, such as Lenzing and NatureWorks, can show that their environmental impact is vastly reduced when renewable-energy sources are used. It is also in their own interest to recycle some of their processing waste into fuel for other parts of their process or business as a whole. SMEs will find it difficult to make equivalent savings.

9 Dissemination And Training

The dissemination strategy within BioStruct comprised four activities:

Data collection
Dissemination and presentation
Exploitation
Training

Beside these main tasks an IPR and Exploitation Support Group was established by the consortium. The IPR and Exploitation Support Group had the responsibility of assessing the consortium on IPR issues and proposing the IPR Policy and the action plan for the exploitation of the project results.

In the first area data collection, from the beginning BioStruct collected and categorised all relevant material for later use in the development of a Professional Concept on Dissemination and Training (PCDT). The goal of the PCDT was to develop a strategic plan that formed a fundament for the future dissemination, training and exploitation activities within the project.

The main objective of the dissemination activities was to maximise the project's impact by reaching the widest audience, including potential users of the BioStruct results. The potential users were represented in the consortium along the whole WPC production chain starting from manufacturers of WPC through producers of raw materials up to potential clients / users (automotive, electronics, packaging, construction industry, etc.). Within BioStruct the partners identified that different target groups needed different ways of dissemination. For this reason the consortium carried out a wide range of dissemination activities.

Parallel to the publication in print media BioStruct developed four project-related newsletters. These included information about the project status and ongoing activities, training and dissemination events as well as cutting-edge eWPC- research and development issues.

The main aim of the third area of activity Exploitation was to identify exploitable results and the most suitable mechanisms for maximizing the exploitation effect as well as to assure the specific internal exploitation interests of each beneficiary.

An Exploitation Strategy Seminar was held in November 2010, which is a service offered by the European Commission in order to assist consortia in optimising the exploitation of their results. The outcome of the ESS was reviewed during, and at the end of the project (August 2012) and was updated to show the shifting directions of the research and the variable successes of different research streams. It is noteworthy that the exploitable outcomes shifted considerably from the start of the project to the end, showing how projects are adaptable at focusing on the positive outcomes.

Training, the fourth area of activity, is important to stimulate the use of BioStruct materials in industrial processes. Because of their experience in the field of industry education and alignment, EuCIA coordinated the BioStruct training activities. This task included the creation of adequate training materials in English and Spanish languages as well as the implementation of BioStruct training events on eWPC materials and processing methods.

Within the BioStruct project four training events were carried out:

The first BioStruct training event on 'Processing and properties of biocomposites' took place on February 16th 2011 in Pfinztal, Germany at the Fraunhofer ICT site.
The second BioStruct training event on Bio-fibres and their processing took place on June 7th 2011 in Finland at the VTT premises.
The third BioStruct training event on 'Case studies and potential end-users' took place on March 21st 2012 at the Engel facilities in Schwertberg, Austria.
The fourth BioStruct training event on Enhanced wood-plastic composites and applications for BioStruct results took place at the Aimplas facilities in Valencia on May 10th 2012.

The BioStruct consortium used these training events to disseminate the project's results as well as to contact interested end-users. The BioStruct training events provided excellent opportunities to get in touch with potential end-users and to invite them to events where the BioStruct consortium could record their interests and requirements for eWPCs. All training events were free of charge and open to the public. Information was spread by means of the dissemination media of the BioStruct partners, by means of BioStruct newsletters as well as direct communication to contacts registered for information through the BioStruct website.

In the framework of the project BioStruct training material has also been developed. The training material is split into different modules explaining the BioStruct materials, material properties and process technologies. Furthermore, an overview of the implementation by various case-studies is shown as well as a summary of the ecological, economic and health impact of the projects developments. During the training events the BioStruct training materials, as well as up-to-date presentations of the partners, were used. All training material and presentations from the training events have been published on the BioStruct project website, under:

training material
and
seminar presentations.

Potential Impact:
OVERALL OBJECTIVE OF THE BIOSTRUCT PROJECT
The BioStruct project was an interdisciplinary project carried out over a period of 48 months. The objective was to stimulate sustainable growth in the sectors involved: chemistry (polymer and additive development), wood-based materials (wood fibres, wood inserts, cellulose fibres), processing equipment (compounders, injection moulding, mould making), the supplying industry (compounders, service sector) as well as endusers interested in implementing sustainable materials in new products (automotive, packaging, electronics and construction industries).

IMPACT
Despite a lot of research activities carried out in the field of wood-plastic composites, their commercial application in Europe is limited. In the US they have gained some interest in large volume applications in decking and fencing industry, where extruded profiles are used to replace natural wood as a lasting and more flexible product. In these WPC products the amount of wood fibres is very high (80% and more) but the wood mainly serves as a cheap filler and to give the product a wood-like optical appearance.
BioStruct aimed to establish wood in a completely different industry: the high value polymer processing industry, where polymer composites are used to produce complex parts like housings, automotive components, packaging articles and construction elements. BioStruct aimed to overcome the barriers to market success in these areas by the development of the next material generation of wood-plastic composites, the so-called enhanced wood-plastic composites eWPCs, avoiding the most important drawbacks in conventional wood-plastic composite technology, such as low impact strength and brittleness, inconsistent material properties due to different fibre qualities, low temperature resistance, strong smell and high emission levels and instability in humid conditions.
In order to achieve these objectives the BioStruct project combined research and development towards a new knowledge-based advanced wood-plastic-composites and new production processes. Beside enhanced properties, economical and environmentally friendly processing routes are also important factors.
From a methodological point of view BioStruct combined research partners from different industries and sectors in order to help to transform a traditional industry into a more science- and knowledge-based industry. Within the consortium, partners from traditional industry and high-tech companies and research organisations were well balanced.
Beside the transformation of traditional industries towards a sustainable supply industry, the development of biomass-based enhanced wood-based composites (eWPCs) in itself contributed to sustainability. Some of the sectors involved in the BioStruct project have a substantial environmental footprint in Europe, such as for example the automotive and packaging industry. The new materials and the energy efficient and low emission processes developed in BioStruct will help to generate changes towards high added-value sustainable products in these sectors.
Due to the well balanced consortium in the BioStruct project ranging from high-tech SMEs with only a few employees to multi-sectorial international large companies BioStruct has generated new knowledge in various industries and commercialisation routes.
The BioStruct project addressed the specific objectives of European research by its integrated approach - combining profound research and development work in the areas of wood and cellulose fibre modification, composite manufacture and processing technology - that is well targeted to industrial exploitation by addressing four potential industrial applications of the newly developed eWPC material.
The main target industry of the project, the wood industry, is one of the largest industries in the EU-25, employing more than 1.3 million people (figure from 2005). The industry itself is very SME-intensive with more than 185.000 enterprises employing these 1.3 million people.
A European roadmap-study published by the forest based sector in 2005 highlighted the necessity of integrating the strong position in research and development in the wood industry, with R and D in other sectors that rely on wood as a base material, integrating knowledge along the value chain of the wood industries as well as in the sectors using wood, like the market of wood-composites, where research and development in the interaction of wood and matrix materials is the key to better properties and economic benefits.
The BioStruct project focussed on knowledge integration from the early beginning. Knowledge integration of different sectors - the forestry and wood industry with know-how in polymer-based composites resulted in substantial progress in the field of advanced wood-based composites and completely new technological approaches like for example bio-hybrid technology, which uses plywood inserts to locally reinforce injection-moulded (bio-)polymer parts.
Beside these general impacts on the involved industries and their sustainability the BioStruct project was also in line with the public's increasing awareness of limiting resources and the risks of climate change. BioStruct from the early beginning has raised a lot of interest both from industry as well as from the public. The website was a frequently visited by guests, the training and information material was often downloaded and the training events and presentations at several exhibitions were well received.
DISSEMINATION
Aims of the dissemination activities
The goal was to disseminate the activities and overall results of BioStruct via exhibitions, trade fairs, publications, print media, internet as well as via seminars, workshops and conferences. The target groups were all partner countries and third countries in Europe with relevance to the sectors of new eWPC materials and their processing methods.
In detail the main objective of the dissemination activities was to reach the widest possible audience, including potential users of the BioStruct results, both materials and production methods of eWPCs. The potential users are represented along the whole WPC production chain starting from manufacturers of WPC through producers of raw materials up to potential clients / users (automotive, electronics, packaging, construction industry, etc.). The BioStruct partners identified that different the target groups need different routes. For this reason, during the project lifetime not only fairs, but also training seminars and conferences were carried out to reach the different interest groups and sectors.

The events in which the BioStruct project participated
The most direct and efficient way to disseminate the project results was to participate in events such as exhibitions and conferences. In total BioStruct has been disseminated via more than fifty exhibitions and conferences - performed by all partners in Germany, Austria, Spain, France, Turkey, Sweden, UK, Slovenia, Belgium, Hungary, Italy and Brazil. During these events specific BioStruct dissemination materials like fact sheet, flyer, poster, roll-up etc. have been used to make potential users aware of the on-going R&D activities and targeted project results.

Website
The central information source and management tool within BioStruct was the official project website. The website went online in December 2008 and could be found under www.biostructproject.eu. The content management system registered 75.892 visits from December 2008 until July 2012. The highest number of visitors could be reached in May 2011 (5122), August 2011 (4941) and January 2011 (4023).
The public area of the website is available for everyone and contains e.g. information about the BioStruct objectives, research fields, partner details, public reports, training material, questionnaires, news and events as well as registration and contact forms. As responsible partner SST continuously updated the website and modified the structure as well as the content.

Publications
Publications about BioStruct have been identified as a useful form of dissemination which leads to a productive spread of information. In total the BioStruct partners have been disseminated more than fifty publications about general issues (press releases) as well as specific R and D topics (scientific papers) e.g. within periodicals like Plasticos Universales; SwissPlastics; SOLID Wirtschaft und Technik am Bau; Interempresas Plasticos Universales; Wood and Panel Magazine etc. Additionally different online articles have been published on the project website and partner websites as well as on various online platforms.
BioStruct Newsletter
Furthermore BioStruct produced four project-related newsletters containing a brief summary of the progress made, including information about the project status and ongoing activities, training and dissemination events as well as cutting-edge eWPC- research and development issues.

BioStruct Training Activities
Managed by the experienced organisation EuCIA, the BioStruct consortium carried out four training events on eWPC materials and processing methods:
The first BioStruct training event on 'Processing and Properties of Bio-Composites' took place on February 16th 2011 in Pfinztal, Germany at the Fraunhofer ICT site.
The second BioStruct training event on Bio-Fibres and their Processing took place on June 7th 2011 in Finland at the VTT premises.
The third BioStruct training event on 'Case studies and potential end-users' took place on March 21st 2012 at the Engel facilities in Schwertberg, Austria.
The fourth BioStruct training event on Enhanced Wood-Plastic Composites and applications for BioStruct results took place at the Aimplas facilities in Valencia on May 10th 2012.

The BioStruct consortium used these training events to disseminate the projectâ??s results as well as to train interested potential users of the BioStruct results. The BioStruct training events provided excellent opportunities to get in touch with potential end-users and to invite them to events where the BioStruct consortium could record their interests and requirements for eWPCs. All training events were free of charge and open to the public. Information was spread by means of the dissemination media of the BioStruct partners, by means of BioStruct newsletters as well as direct communication to contacts registered for information through the BioStruct website.
To allow offline studies in the results generated by the BioStruct project and to support the training events the BioStruct project also developed training material, which is available in English and Spanish on the project website. The training material is split into different modules explaining the BioStruct materials, material properties and process technologies. Furthermore, an overview of possible use-cases is given by showing the various case-studies. The material furthermore contains public data on ecological, economic and health impact of the projects developments.

EXPLOITATION
The exploitation of the results of BioStruct is an important consideration which has been planned since the beginning of the project. The exploitation work carried out is described below and includes the planning exercises (Exploitation Strategy Seminar), the results at the end of the project (ESS review, Internal reports, Patents) and the future exploitation (Patents, Commercial and R and D exploitation).
EXPLOITATION STRATEGY SEMINAR
The project started on September 1st 2009 and after 1 year it was agreed that the research work was sufficiently developed to allow an Exploitation Strategy Seminar (ESS) to be held. This is a 1 day meeting designed to highlight the possible exploitable outcomes and which gives some structure to the planning, risks and Intellectual Property Rights (IPR) issues that might arise further into the project. The Exploitation Strategy Seminars are offered by the European Commission in order to assist consortia in optimising the exploitation of their results. At the time this service was offered under contract with the EC by a consortium of experts, led by Cimatec Srl of Italy. The ESS was held on November 24th 2010 in Madrid at the premises of partner Acciona, in conjunction with a General Assembly meeting and lasted one full day. Cimatec acted as a facilitator to lead the discussions of the team using a procedure developed especially for collaborative research projects, based on extensive prior experience. There was some extensive planning where, before the meeting, a list of Exploitable Results is drawn up and partners provide information about what is needed to maximise success, factors such costs, time, competition, risks, barriers and customer acceptance. The output of the meeting was a Synthesis Report which summarises the findings and provides the first indication of who has provided IP at the start of the project (Background IP) who has generated IP in the project (Foreground IP) and who wants to use it in a number of ways.
The output of this meeting was useful to focus attention on possible future partnerships and inter-dependencies as well as the need for IPR protection and the consideration of risks.
List of top 10 identified exploitable results:
1. Modification, process and pilot scale production of wood fibres
2. Modification, process and pilot scale production of regenerated cellulose fibres
3. Newly developed bio-PA polymers
4. New composites from biobased materials
5. CO2 assisted processing technology
6. Reactive processing technology
7. Processing technology for local reinforcements
8. Optimized plastification processes for eWPC injection
9. Extrusion with inline foaming technology
10. Case Studies

PROJECT REPORTING
The reporting of the project is an important exploitation task, it helps inform the EC of progress and acts as a record for the partners and for future research. One report (or Deliverable) in particular related to exploitation was the Estimation of Market Penetration report which is confidential to partners as it contains sensitive information relating to techniques, costs, plans and so on. However, some examples of the key points are summarised very briefly below.
The main innovation for the resin or matrix part of the BioStruct composites was a bio-based Polyamide (PA) material from Henkel, named Macromelt 7003 (MM 7003). This is an 86% bio-content matrix material, which is an extremely high ratio (some so-called bio materials can be as little as 20% bio) and in the future, given some petro-chemical replacements. Although the cost is still relatively high compared to current commodity polymers it represents an excellent additive to current bio-composites. It can also be used as a sustainable matrix in its own right for applications where the raw material cost is not so important and environmental impact is important.

PATENTS
It is important to protect the IP generated within the project and one way to do this is to file for patent protection. Two patent applications have been filed as a result of the BioStruct research:
1.Partner Tecnaro: A patent relating to blended PLA and Bio-Polyamides has been filed, details of which cannot be released outside the consortium yet. (application ref. DE102011011427A1)
2.Partner PJH: A patent relating to C02 application/capture for improved materials has been filed, details of which cannot be released outside the consortium yet. (application ref: UK0916485.6)
Further patents are planned in the area of material technology.

COMMERCIAL EXPLOITATION
There are a number of positive results from BioStruct which can go forward and be exploited commercially. Some examples are:
1.Henkel Macromelt 7003 is already being promoted and is available commercially as a biocomposites matrix or as an additive to improve impact performance. It also has the advantage of processing at lower temperatures (180oC as opposed to 200oC for current PA materials) allowing natural fibres to be used with a PA material. (Note that, as with current PAs, they need drying before use)
2.WPCs with high quality wood-fibre reinforcement giving higher performance then current WPCs (usoing wood powder) but still a lower cost than 100% polymer (PP or PLA) products.
3.Bio-based plasticisers, used by Condensia, which are cost-competitive compared with currently used additives
4.Flax combined with PP or PLA used as inserts for BioStruct is now available from NetComposites as a textile or pre-consolidated sheet.
5.The combination of PP +wood fibre and Macromelt+Tencel fibres with optimised screw geometry offers lower energy processing and partner Engel will offer tailored injection moulding machines for eWPC applications.

Examples for R and D Exploitation:
1.Partner PJHs Super-Critical CO2 fibre impregnation treatment. This is used to attach CO2 to fibres which at the extrusion or injection moulding stage is released, having the effect of lowering the melt temperature of the matrix. The advantage of this is lower energy consumption and reduced natural fibre degradation. This technology needs some refinement for some applications and could well be the bais of further funded research.
2.Magnetic and conductive biocomposites have been created and tested and need some further development before entering the market, via commercial or funded R and D.

In order to deal with IPR issues and linked exploitation activities an IPR & Exploitation Support Group was elected by the consortium. The IPR & Exploitation Support Group had the responsibility of assessing the consortium on IPR issues and proposing the IPR Policy and the Action Plan for the exploitation of the project results to the Steering Committee.

SOCIO-ECONOMIC IMPACT
To take into account the social and economic aspects of the project, evaluations were carried out on three different areas - economic, environmental, and health and safety areas - to assess the impact of BioStruct materials and processes in the plastic and plastic composites sector.
In the area of economics, all materials and processes involved in the production of BioStruct composites and demonstrators were evaluated. In general, this evaluation highlighted that the forecasted cost of the developed bio-composites were higher than those of current WPCs. However the higher performance and sustainability of BioStruct composites would allow some market penetration mainly in medium to high technical applications in comparison with current WPCs, where the green credentials of a product are sufficient to justify its higher price. Furthermore it was shown that a reduction of the energy usage during the composites production and final processing was also possible with BioStruct composites which contributed to a reduction of the overall processing cost. In addition, it was expected that the cost of BioStruct composites will decrease with the scaling-up or the production making them more performance/cost competitive in comparison with conventional WPC. Furthermore the prices of bio-based materials are considered to be stabilizing in comparison with oil-derived materials, and this would make BioStruct composites more attractive in near future.
The developed material formulations were successfully implemented in various demonstration parts, showing a potential application in each sector (construction, electronics, packaging and automotive). Taking into account the economic evaluation the cost of the developed formulations was estimated to be in a range of 2,4 to 4,2 /kg (without profit margins).
In the environmental area, it is known that replacing current glass or mineral reinforced oil-based polymers with bio-based polymers reinforced with wood or cellulose fibres would have important environmental benefits. The main benefits here came from the lower energy consumption to obtain the raw materials (fibres, Bio-PA, PLA) used to produce BioStruct composites, and their higher sustainability in comparison with traditional, fossil-fuel derived polymers and composites.
In the health and safety area, BioStruct raw materials and the developed eWPCs were classified as low risk to health materials. Here the main identified risk was the risk of fire or explosion derived from a poor control of the compounding process, which can be fixed by implementing an ATEX-compliant installation at the compounding stage.
WIDER SOCIETAL IMPLICATIONS
The woodworking and chemical wood industry is a major employer in many of the Member States of the European Union. European woodworking and chemical wood industry employed about 3.2 million employees in 2011. It had turnover of 380 billion. The industry has more than 380,000 companies.
The industry is a major contributor to rural development: Firms are often located in remote, less industrialized or developed areas, making an important contribution to the rural economy. This is an industry of Small and Medium-sized Enterprises (SME): the companies within the woodworking industries are mostly SMEs, with only a few large groups. In the European pulp and paper Industry some 50% of mills can be considered as SMEs. According to results obtained, the BioStruct project will increase labour force needs in the rural areas, when cost-competitiveness is improved. BioStruct, with the development of the next generation of WPCs, strongly participated and accelerated this process, providing larger market access for eWPC materials. Through the BioStruct project the wood industry gained long-term perspectives, because BioStruct shifts the wood industry supplies from cheap low-cost fillers to high-performance reinforcing materials for advanced wood-based composites. This will dramatically change the way wood will be regarded in composite industry. The current use of engineered wood products (EWP) in the automotive and electronic industry is limited due to low specification of the material.
Composites developed also provide a positive impact on the environment (acting as CO2 sinks and uses more renewable materials). BioStruct developed new fibre modification and processing technologies that mainly rely on the important principals of green chemistry.
with the mentioned improvements in employment, better health and safety and the lower impact on environment BioStruct represent a clear advancement in the social responsibility of Europe's wood industry.

list of Websites:
website: http://www.biostructproject.eu

contact details of project coordinator:
Dr. Jan Diemert
fraunhofer Institute for Chemical Technology (ICT)
+0049-721-4640 433 / jan.diemert@ict.fraunhofer.de