Fujitsu Creates Bio-Based Polymer for Components from Castor Oil

Fujitsu Limited and Fujitsu Laboratories Limited announced their development of a new polymer with a high bio-content(1) that uses castor oil extracted from the seeds of the castor bean(2). The new bio-based polymer features superior flexibility that can withstand repeated bending. Fujitsu will consider using this new bio-based polymer for small components of notebook PCs and mobile phones, such as connector covers.

In recent years, increases in carbon dioxide emissions caused by the use of fossil fuels, such as petroleum and coal, have resulted in a rapid advance in global warming. Hence, there is an urgent call for the reduction of carbon dioxide emissions. This condition has raised interest in the use of bio-based polymers, which place a lower burden on the environment, as an alternative to conventional plastics made from petroleum, a limited natural resource.

In 2002 Fujitsu started using bio-based polymers based on polylactic acid(3), made from materials including corn, in the chassis of the FMV-BIBLO notebook PC. However, in order for plant-based materials to be used more widely in Fujitsu products, what has been needed is the development of a new bio-based polymer with a higher bio-content that features superior flexibility and is suitable for mass-production.

Highlights of the Newly Developed Material
To address this need, Fujitsu and Fujitsu Laboratories worked with a major French chemical company, Arkema(4), and succeeded in developing a new bio-based polymer plastic that has as its principal component polyamide-11 (PA-11)(5), which is derived from castor oil.

By weakening the interaction of the chain molecule in PA-11 and relaxing the stereo-regularity of their organization, the resulting new material has sufficient flexibility to withstand repeated bending without causing the whitening that often occurs when such materials are strained. Moreover, Fujitsu has succeeded in developing a prototype of certain notebook PC-cover components with an exceptionally high bio-content of 60-80%. Even after adding high-density fillers to increase strength, the polymer maintains good impact-resistance and thus it is hoped that the material could eventually be used in PC chasses and other larger components.

Fujitsu plans to continue research of bio-based polymers derived from castor oil and consider using such polymers in small components for notebook PCs and mobile phones by 2008, and will continue looking for ways to apply them to larger components as a way to further reduce the burden on the environment. Along with polymers based on polylactic acid made from corn and other material, through these activities Fujitsu will promote further expansion of the use of plant-based materials in its products.

About Fujitsu Limited
Fujitsu (TSE: 6702; US: FJTSY) is a leading provider of customer-focused IT and communications solutions for the global marketplace. Pace-setting device technologies, highly reliable computing and communications products, and a worldwide corps of systems and services experts uniquely position Fujitsu to deliver comprehensive solutions that open up infinite possibilities for its customers’ success. Headquartered in Tokyo, Fujitsu Limited (TSE: 6702) reported consolidated revenues of about 4.8 trillion yen (US$40.6 billion) for the fiscal year ended March 31, 2006.

1) bio-content: The proportion of a product’s organic components derived from plant materials.
2) castor bean: A member of the spurge family Euphorbiaceae grown in Africa, the oil made from the seeds of this bean is used in products such as nylon, coatings, cosmetics, and pharmaceuticals.
3) polylactic acid: A bio-based polymer made using lactic acid derived from the fermentation of starches and saccharides from sources such as corn and potatoes.
4) Arkema: Originally the chemicals division of Total Group, and spun off as a separate company in May 2005. Main lines of business include performance products, industrial chemicals and vinyl products.
5) polyamide-11 (PA-11): A polyamide resin converted by polycondensation reaction from 11-aminoundecanoic acid, which is produced from castor oil derived from the seeds of the castor bean. Arkema is the world’s only supplier of “Rilsan”, its original product using the polyamide-11 material.