Computer mouse made of sugar cane
Yoghurt cups and water bottles made from polylactic acid are en vogue. Material scientists in Hannover have developed a computer mouse housing material based on sugar cane.
While the packaging industry has been moving towards using more renewable materials for quite some time now, the electronic industry has yet to adopt that strategy. The outer layers of coffee machines, computers and other devices are still mostly made of petrol-based plastics. But things could change soon: Researchers at the Application Center HOFZET of the Fraunhofer Institute for Wood Research WKI and the IfBB, the Institute for Bioplastics and Biocomposites at Hannover University of Applied Sciences, are developing the housing material for a computer mouse on the basis of poly-L-lactic acid (PLLA), 83% of which are made from the renewable raw material based on sugar cane.
High demands for new material
The new housing material was locally processed to prototypes via injection moulding. In addition to a high content of renewable raw materials, the new housing had to fulfil a number of other requirements: a high heat distortion resistance was to be ensured, repeated screwing and unscrewing of the housing for assembly and repair should be possible, and also a slight wear of the scroll wheel holder was required.
To comply with these needs, the researchers at the IfBB and the application center HOFZET continuously adapted the formulation within the prototype development, modified the surface and explored the possibilities for automated industrial production and implemented them on site. The project was lead by the junior researcher group "Systematic identification and practical implementation of synergies in the field of biopolymers, biopolymer fibers and composite materials" at the IfBB, which is funded by the Federal Ministry of Food and Agriculture.
Fair trade for electronics
Driving force of this project was the association Nager IT eV. Similarly to the fair trade movements regarding clothing or food, the Bavarian-based organisation is driving forward the sustainability aspect in the electronic industry. In addition to the sugar cane-based housing material, the scroll wheel is also made of home-grown wood instead of plastic.
Certified new material
The newly developed semi-crystalline PLLA blend has already been certified by the certification body DIN CERTCO of the TÜV Rheinland Group and the DIN Institute.