A research group at Tohoku University Graduate School proposed and designed an environmentally friendly composite material made from traditional Miyagi paper and biodegradable plastic (PBS), successfully produced a prototype, and clarified its mechanical and physical properties and biodegradability.

 Traditional handmade washi paper, famous for its beauty and strength, is made from a plant called kozo, which has long fibers and is strong, and is a material with a long history and many cultural significances. . It has been used for hundreds of years to make books, sliding doors, windows, etc., but production is decreasing. Meanwhile, research and development of plastics that biodegrade in the natural environment was underway to solve the microplastic problem.

 Polybutylene succinate (PBS) is a biodegradable plastic that is eventually decomposed into water and carbon dioxide by microorganisms, and the research group has developed two layers of PBS film and handmade Japanese paper, a traditional craft from Kawasaki Town, Miyagi Prefecture. We have developed an environmentally friendly composite material (green composite) by stacking three layers and hot press molding.

 The tensile strength of this green composite of 3 layers of Japanese paper and 2 layers of PBS (W3P2) is significantly higher than that of washi and PBS alone. Furthermore, when it was placed in a compost made from food scraps and sludge, more than 5% biodegraded after 80 weeks, and after 6 weeks it became difficult to distinguish the contents of this green composite from the compost.

 In this research, we put the prototype composite material into compost and investigated in detail the amount of CO2 generated, decomposition rate, changes in mechanical properties, changes in density, etc., and demonstrated for the first time in the world the relationship between changes in mechanical properties and decomposition rate. In the future, it is expected that the results will lead to the proposal of biodegradability evaluation guidelines, practical application in environmentally friendly packaging, furniture, agricultural mulch film, etc., and the development of new uses for traditional Japanese paper.

Paper information:[Composites Part A: Applied Science and Manufacturing] Japanese washi-paper-based green composites: fabrication, mechanical characterization, and evaluation of biodegradability

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