Mazda has been working on fibers made from plant sources and destined for car interiors for a while now. Back in early September, Mazda announced it was working on such a biofabric with Teijin Ltd and Teijin Fibers Ltd. This new biotech material was then shown at the Tokyo Motor Show as part of the seat covers and door trim in the Premacy Hydrogen RE Hybrid. Mazda is pleased with the material's ability to resist abrasion and sun damage and apparently sees a future for these sorts of fabrics; the company has registered the "Mazda Biotechmaterial" brand name for all of its biomaterials.

The Mazda biofabric does not contain any oil-based resources and is made by "combining large numbers of lactic acid molecules that are made from fermented carbohydrates such as plant sugars."

Another bit of Mazda eco-news, an update to its new exhaust catalyst that uses fewer precious materials, is contained in the PR after the break.

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[Source: Mazda]
MAZDA ENVIRONMENTAL NEWS

1. Mazda Develops Plant Fibres for Use in Car Interiors
Mazda has unveiled a new fabric for car interiors made entirely from plant-derived fibres. The fabric was shown at the Tokyo Motor Show on the seat covers and door trim in the all-new Premacy Hydrogen RE Hybrid.

The biofabric does not contain any oil-based materials and is being hailed as another step towards the "eco-friendly car society". The fabric has been developed in collaboration with Teijin Ltd and Teijin Fibers Ltd companies with R&D and manufacturing sites near Mazda's headquarters in Hiroshima.

The new biofabric is resistant to abrasion and damage from sunlight; it is also flame retardant while still meeting the highest quality and durability standards needed for vehicle seat covers. Mazda now plans to strengthen its future research and development on non-food-based materials. In 2006, the company developed a bioplastic which is used on the Premacy Hybrid's instrument panel and other interior fittings. All of Mazda's biomaterials fall under the "Mazda Biotechmaterial" brand name.

Seita Kanai, Mazda's Director and Senior Executive officer in charge of R&D, commented: "We are convinced that our new technology, which enables the manufacture of this material without any oil-based resources, will become a cornerstone for future biotechnologies aimed at reducing the burden on the environment."

How it works
The biofabric has been made possible thanks to technologies which control the entire molecular architecture of raw resins allowing fibre strength to be improved until the fabric has sufficient resistance to abrasion and light damage for practical use in vehicle seat covers.

It is made of 100 percent polylactic acid – a plastic created by combining large numbers of lactic acid molecules that are made from fermented carbohydrates such as plant sugars. Other crucial qualities necessary for the highest performing fabrics, such as fire retardant properties, were achieved through Mazda's accumulated experience in surface technologies built up through years of co-operation with several local companies.

2. Mazda Hails Breakthrough in Exhaust Catalyst Technology
Mazda Motors has developed a new exhaust catalyst which manages to reduce the amount of expensive precious metals used by 70 to 90 percent. The breakthrough has come through using what is known as single-nanotechnology. Single-nanotechnology is a technology that can control even smaller particles than nanotechnology*.

The new development enables Mazda to reduce the amount of platinum and palladium used without affecting the performance of purifying gas emissions while still maintaining the high durability of conventional catalysts. In automotive catalysts, precious metals promote chemical reactions that purify exhaust gases on their surfaces. In conventional catalysts, the precious metals are adhered to a base material. Exposure to exhaust gas heat causes the precious metal to mass together into larger particles. This reduces the catalyst's effective surface area and the ability of the catalyst to work efficiently. This is then countered by the use of significant amounts of precious metals.

In order to increase the precious metal surface area, Mazda developed a new catalyst using precious metal particles that are less than 5 nanometers (nm) in diameter. This is the first time that a catalyst material has been achieved that features single, nanosized precious metal particles embedded in fixed positions.

As a result, there is no grouping together of the precious metal particles, and the amount of high-priced precious metals used in three-way catalytic converters – which purify gasoline-engine exhaust gases – can be reduced by 70 to 90 percent. Moreover, the new catalyst material will maintain the same level of purifying efficiency, with minimal deterioration over time even under the harshest operating conditions.

*Nanotechnology is defined by the OED as "the branch of technology that deals with dimensions and tolerances of less than 100 nanometres, especially the manipulation of individual atoms and molecules". A nanometre is one thousand millionth of a metre.


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