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Bio Chair

Bio Chair

Bio Chair

Research Centre
Art and Design Research Centre

Date
2008

Can renewably-produced biopolymers be used as a viable alternative to petrochemical-based plastics currently used in the manufacture of moulded furniture pieces?

BioChair – Research Project in collaboration with SCION, New Zealand

‘Any business that strives to remain competitive, open to new markets and new opportunities will recognise the challenges – and the opportunities – of global demands for environmental quality.

Products that are more energy-efficient, which reduce water consumption, decrease pollution and reduce end-of-life waste, now have a clear competitive edge in the market.

New Zealand products intended for export have to meet these new global-market standards for environmental quality. Local products will have to compete against imports with an ‘environmental edge’.

Can renewably-produced biopolymers be used as a viable alternative to petrochemical-based plastics currently used in the manufacture of moulded furniture pieces?

Worldwide, furniture manufacturers that have investigated eco-sustainable furniture production have tended to focus on the recyclability of high-energy embodied technological materials rather than on the utilization of renewably sourced biopolymers that have a wider range of ‘end of life’ options, even including composting. Furthermore, research into ‘sick-building syndrome’ has made us aware of the need for new design solutions and material formulations that will lead to improved and ‘healthy’ indoor environments. Previous design work undertaken between Unitec and Scion proved that small desktop items can be made using biopolymer materials formulated in New Zealand.

This project has investigated the use of biopolymers in the production of eco-sustainable products in the form of commercially viable office furniture designs. Working with Scion, polymer developments based on Scion's propriety ‘know how’ have been further developed and laboratory tested for mechanical properties, commercial moulding possibilities and end of life options explored, such as recyclability and composting. Biopolymer materials were also tested for structural durability when used with secondary materials such as solid timber. Previous work at Scion has demonstrated potential of such biopolymer materials in a range of applications, including some furniture components.

BioChair article

Scion Website

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