Ontario's Bioadvantage

Ontario's Bio Advantage at Work

Focus: Ontario BioCar Initiative

Wheat straw strengthens plastic car components

The first production-ready application of the Ontario BioCar Initiative made its debut in the 2010 Ford Flex. That's where wheat straw, a byproduct from wheat, was used in some of the model's in-car storage bins.

In late 2009, the Ford Motor Company, together with one of its suppliers and Ontario university researchers, became the first automaker to develop and use environmentally friendly wheat straw-reinforced plastic in a vehicle.

This exciting first application of natural fibre-based plastic contains 20 per cent wheat straw biofiller and is in third row interior storage bins of the 2010 Ford Flex. This application alone reduces petroleum use by some 9,000 kilograms per year, reduces CO2 emissions by 13,600 kilograms per year and represents a smart, sustainable use for wheat straw.

Ford researchers were approached with the wheat straw-based plastics formulation by the University of Waterloo as part of the Ontario BioCar Initiative - a multi-university effort between Waterloo, the University of Guelph, University of Toronto and University of Windsor. Ford works closely with the Ontario government-funded project to advance the use of more plant-based materials in the auto and agricultural industries.

The wheat straw-reinforced resin demonstrates better dimensional integrity than a non-reinforced plastic and weighs up to 10 per cent less than a plastic reinforced with talc or glass.

Ontario's Bio Advantage at Work

Focus: Bioproducts Discovery and Development Centre

Turning biomass into bioinnovations

Researchers are revolutionizing the use of agricultural products - turning soy, wheat, corn and other crops into everything from car parts and furniture to fuel. It's all happening at the Bioproducts Discovery and Development Centre, which opened its doors at the University of Guelph in October 2008.

The Centre produces greener bioproducts to substitute non-renewable materials in many manufacturing sectors, consumer goods and services. The Centre’s work includes turning crops into renewable biofuels to run vehicles, and into resins, polymers and tough fibres for the production of biobased materials - all aimed to reduce our dependency on petroleum materials.

These biomaterials are used for everything from car parts and furniture to building materials to new kinds of rubber. And unlike current products, plant-based biomaterials are more eco-friendly, and the crops that produce them are completely renewable.

Professor Amar Mohanty is the centre's director and the Ontario Premier's Research Chair in Biomaterials and Transportation.

Amar Mohanty, Premier's Research Chair in Biomaterials & Transportation

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Author: Elin Gwyn, Research Analyst, RIB
Creation Date: 9 August 2011
Last Reviewed: 20 November 2013