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Ken
05-21-2008, 03:18 PM
Plastics from potatoes, who would have thought it. A snippet of information from my Toyota main Dealer.

Ken.

Potato Power

NEVER MIND ITS RELATIVE the humble spud, it's the sweet potato - or Ipomoea batatas, to give it its proper name - that reigns supreme these days. Not convinced? Just ask one of the sweet potato's many loyal fans: celebrity chefs Gordon Ramsay and Jamie Oliver, Oprah Winfrey (a great believer in the nutritional benefits of the vegetable apparently) or even Toyota. You may be surprised to learn that Toyota, a somewhat unlikely supporter of vegetables, has been growing its own crop of sweet potato since 2001. However, this scheme isn't designed to keep its staff canteens across the globe well-stocked with potato chips, but rather for use in the manufacture of bio-plastics.

Bio-plastics are not a new invention. Scientists have been exploring the potential of plant-derived plastics since the Fifties - but up until now they have been made using mostly soya bean or corn crops. Working from its base in the Lampung province of Indonesia, Toyota is one of the first companies to really explore the potential of the sweet potato, or more specifically its starch, as a source of bio-plastic.

The production process involves the extraction of the starch from the sweet potato plant, which is broken down with enzymes to create a sugar. This is fermented into lactic acid and then polymerised, refined and moulded to create the raw bio-plastic material. Unlike conventional petroleum-based plastics, bio-plastics are biodegradable, and therefore renewable and sustainable. And while the sweet potato is growing, it absorbs carbon dioxide, so it's carbon neutral, too. Most importantly, bio-plastics have the same function as conventional plastics and, according to Toyota, the production cost is only marginally more expensive than their decidedly un-green alternatives.

So Toyota is doing its bit for the environment, but what does it do with the plastic? Well, it has already made wheel covers and floor mats from the Toyota Eco Plastic, but its application is by no means limited to Toyota products. As well as its work in bio-plastics, Toyota is investigating the potential of the sweet potato as an ingredient for livestock feed, foodstuffs and even as a fuel source. And the adventure of producing sweetpotatoes, which can be cultivated all year-round in Indonesia, doesn't have to end there. In fact, now, the possibilities are endless.

misterdecibel
05-21-2008, 08:32 PM
In the immediate post-WWII years, Ford were working on a soy-based plastic for a plastic-bodied car project. I'm not sure why it was canned, but some prototypes were built.

grouch
05-21-2008, 09:10 PM
In the immediate post-WWII years, Ford were working on a soy-based plastic for a plastic-bodied car project. I'm not sure why it was canned, but some prototypes were built.



Actually, Ol' Henry got soy beams used in the late 30's. I remember seeing a picutre of him whacking the trunk of a late 30's Ford with a sledgehammer. Steel was cheaper and easier to work with and then WW2 broke out. I'm sure you've heard about it, it was in all the papers. During the war, Hanry's son Edsel died and Henry II was called home to run the company. Grampa was failing and died shortly after the war. He had lost most of his vogor over those few years and didn't prursue it further.

Eric
06-23-2008, 06:43 PM
In the immediate post-WWII years, Ford were working on a soy-based plastic for a plastic-bodied car project. I'm not sure why it was canned, but some prototypes were built.


Plastic/composite for bodywork seems to "come and go" - but never really catches on. Seems like a great idea to me; lightweight, doesn't rust, etc. But there's gotta be some problem that makes it preferable to build cars out of steel/alloys....

grouch
06-24-2008, 02:22 AM
In the immediate post-WWII years, Ford were working on a soy-based plastic for a plastic-bodied car project. I'm not sure why it was canned, but some prototypes were built.


Plastic/composite for bodywork seems to "come and go" - but never really catches on. Seems like a great idea to me; lightweight, doesn't rust, etc. But there's gotta be some problem that makes it preferable to build cars out of steel/alloys....



Plastic has some problems. Personally, I think it might be a good idea if they can makle the plastic out of something other than oil. A few years ago, I saw a Saturn that has been parked to a house that burned. You could look through the car from one side to the other when the plastic doors melted off. The tires were charred but held air. They drove it away from the house after the fire was out.

Eric
06-24-2008, 07:59 AM
In the immediate post-WWII years, Ford were working on a soy-based plastic for a plastic-bodied car project. I'm not sure why it was canned, but some prototypes were built.


Plastic/composite for bodywork seems to "come and go" - but never really catches on. Seems like a great idea to me; lightweight, doesn't rust, etc. But there's gotta be some problem that makes it preferable to build cars out of steel/alloys....



Plastic has some problems. Personally, I think it might be a good idea if they can makle the plastic out of something other than oil. A few years ago, I saw a Saturn that has been parked to a house that burned. You could look through the car from one side to the other when the plastic doors melted off. The tires were charred but held air. They drove it away from the house after the fire was out.


Yeah, now that you mention it, I've seen some melted Corvettes, too!

grouch
06-24-2008, 11:20 AM
Yeah, now that you mention it, I've seen some melted Corvettes, too!




I've seen se veral covettes that were charred and burnt but I don't think I've ever seen one melt. The Saturn had sags of plastic on what had been the doors.