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*****For immediate use February 3, 2003

NEC Announces Development of High-Strength Highly Heat Resistant Bioplastic

- Featuring polylactic acid reinforced with kenaf fiber -




TOKYO, February 3, 2003 - NEC Corporation (NEC) (NASDAQ: NIPNY, FTSE: 6701q.l, TSE: 6701) has successfully developed a bioplastic with substantially higher heat resistance and strength (rigidity) than conventional bioplastics composed of polylactic acid (Note 1). The new bioplastic was achieved by reinforcing the polylactic acid with kenaf (Note 2) fiber, which is highly effective in the prevention of global warming. The superior heat resistance and strength of this bioplastic allows use in high-end applications such as electronic devices.

The newly developed bioplastic has the following features.

  1. Thermal deformation temperature raised from 67celsius to 120celsius and bending modulus (Note 3) improved from 4.5 giga-pascal (GPa) to 7.6 GPa by reinforcing the polylactic acid material of a traditional bioplastic with 20% kenaf fiber, enabling strength and heat resistance properties exceeding those of conventional oil-based plastics used for packaging such as ABS resin and fiberglass-reinforced ABS resin.
  2. No deterioration of vital characteristics such as fluidity and moisture resistance during polylactic acid formation.

These features not only enable use of bioplastic in high-end applications such as electronic devices, but also allow the development of value-added applications for kenaf fiber, which contributes greatly to the prevention of global warming.
Bioplastics composed of organic materials such as polylactic acid are currently in the spotlight as eco-friendly plastics that effectively utilize reproductionable biomass materials. However, bioplastics developed until now have been difficult to use in electronic devices due to inadequacies such as low thermal deformation tolerance and brittleness.
NEC has responded by successfully developing a bioplastic that features a thermal deformation temperature 1.8 times higher and a strength (bending modulus) 1.7 times higher than conventional polylactic acid bioplastics by reinforcing the polylactic acid with kenaf fiber.

Kenaf grows quickly and has the highest CO2 absorption capacity of any plant, thereby helping to prevent global warming, and until now has most commonly been used as a substitute for existing materials such as paper fiber and animal feed. This new development, however, will broaden the application range of kenaf into previously unexplored fields such as electronic devices. The kenaf fiber used by NEC in its development was supplied by Nature Trust Inc. (head office: Shibuya, Tokyo; president: Hirokazu Furukawa), the first company to successfully grow kenaf in bulk (in Australia), so NEC will have no problem maintaining a stable supply from this company once practical application commences.

NEC plans to realize practical application of the new bioplastic in electronic devices within the next two years, and will continue to enhance its research and development projects in this field.

NEC Corporation
NEC Corporation (NASDAQ: NIPNY, FTSE: 6701q.l, TSE: 6701) is one of the world's leading providers of broadband and mobile Internet solutions dedicated to meeting the specialized needs of its diverse and global base of customers. Ranked as a Global Fortune 500(R) company and one of the world's top patent-producing companies, the NEC group delivers tailored solutions in the core technologies and services required in a networked world, ranging from advanced semiconductor solutions, to high-speed, large-capacity mission critical systems, system integration, and broadband and mobile technologies. The NEC group employs more than 140,000 people worldwide and had net sales of approximately $39 billion in the fiscal year ended March 2002. For additional information, please visit the NEC home page at http://www.nec.com.

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Note 1: Polylactic acid bioplastic
A plastic now being mass produced that consists of polymerized lactic acid made from fermented corn, etc. Although this plastic has the best heat resistance and strength features of all mass-produced organic plastics, its characteristics have been inadequate for use in electronic equipment.
Note 2: Kenaf
Kenaf grows faster than any other plant (3 to 9 times faster) and is extremely effective in absorbing carbon dioxide gas (one ton of kenaf absorbs 1.5 tons of atmospheric CO2). However, kenaf has traditionally been used as a substitute for existing materials such as paper fiber and animal feed, and its potential has remained unexploited.
Note 3: Bending modulus
A value that indicates the bending resistance of a material.

Press Contact:

Japan
Daniel Mathieson
NEC Corporation
+81-3-3798-6511
d-mathieson@bu.jp.nec.com
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