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Future Mobile Phones to be Made from Cashew Nut Shells

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NEC says that it has developed a new form of bio plastic that could be used for mobile phones and is 70% made from a mixture of cellulose, a main component of plant stems, with cardanol, a primary component of cashew nut shells.

Current bio-plastics include large amounts of oil-based additives, which results in a low plant component ratio.

As an alternative to oil-based components, cellulose is the plastic's major ingredient. The cellulose, which is produced in large amounts by plants, including grass stems, etc., is modified by cardanol, an oil-like material that is extracted from cashew nut shells. Most of these stems and nut shells are abundant resources, which are often discarded byproducts of the agricultural process.

In recent years, bioplastics composed from plant resources gathered greater attention as an effective measure to reduce the depletion of petroleum resources and alleviate global warming. However, while current leading bioplastics, such as PLA, primarily use feed grains as a plant resource, the possibility of future food shortages has emphasized the importance of using non-edible plant resources to produce bioplastics.

Therefore, non-edible plant-based bioplastics have been developed using such resources as cellulose and castor oil. These cellulose-based bioplastics have conventionally been utilized in stationery, toys and household goods. However, these modified celluloses require large amounts of petroleum-based additives such as plasticizers, which results in bioplastics with a low plant component ratio and poor durability, including heat resistance and water resistance.

A polyamide resin derived from castor oil, a non-edible plant resource is also being used in electronic parts, however, there is an inadequate supply of this plant resource to expand its use and its characteristics are unsuitable for use in a variety of electronics.

However, NEC's newly developed bioplastic is claimed to resolve each of these issues. Looking forward, the company will continue with research and development towards mass production of this bioplastic and improving its suitability for a wide range of electronic equipment and expects commercial use in around three years time.

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