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Ford's wheat straw bio-filled polypropylene - click to enlarge

Aside from fuels, one of the biggest uses of petroleum is in the production of polymer materials like plastics. Just as automakers have attempted to reduce the use of petroleum-based fuels, researchers are also working on reducing the other dino juice applications.

Aside from metals such as iron, steel and aluminum, perhaps the most common material in cars is plastic. Most of the plastic made today is derived from petroleum. Besides the raw materials used, a lot pf greenhouse gases are produced in the processing of plastics. Bio-materials have been a major research area in recent years including Ford's new soy-foam seats. Researchers from the Hawaii Natural Energy Institute have a developed a class of bioplastics called Polyhydroxyalkanoates that can be pr

Ford has been developing lots of different materials from renewable sources including the soyfoam that they introduced in the Mustang seats for 2008. Now Ford's Japanese affiliate Mazda has kicked off a new research program with hometown school Hiroshima University to develop a new type of plastic. Current plastics are largely made from petroleum-derived materials meaning that they too contribute to our fossil fuel dependency. Mazda's research is focused on creating a new bioplastic made from ce

A professor at Polytechnic University, Dr. Richard Gross, has developed a fuel-latent bioplastic, that is, a plastic made from vegetable oils where the fuel capability remains "hidden" until the plastic is converted into biodiesel. His prize: a $2.34 million award from the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA). Dr. Gross is director of Polytechnic University's National Science Foundation (NSF) Center for Biocatalysis and Bioprocessing of Macromolecules (CBBM). The next step, unsurpri