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Ensuring safety of modern fiber-nanomaterials

Steinbeis R-Tech is a partner of EU-funded project called BIO4SELF

In 2016, the EU launched a Horizon 2020 project called BIO4SELF with the aim of developing self-reinforced polylactic acid (PLA) composites able to offer superior mechanical performance compared to current self-reinforced poly propylene (PP). Steinbeis Advanced Risk Technologies (R-Tech) contributes to environmental footprint (life cycle assessment), life cycle costs, safety standards, and risk analysis. BIO4SELF (short for “biobased, self-functionalized, self-reinforced composite materials based on high performance nanofibrillar PLA fibers”) is receiving € 7 million of backing and involves 16 partners from science, applied research, and industry.

The aim of BIO4SELF is to identify fully biobased, self-reinforced polymer composites (SRPC). Two types of PLAs are needed to make SRPCs: ones with a low melting temperature to provide a basic scaffold and ones with an ultra-high stiffness and high melting temperature to form fiber composites. The task of producing PLA fiber materials with self-functionalization involves several stages, making odor-reduced PLA, hydrolytically stable PLA, self-healing PLA, and self-sensing PLA. Aside from the technical tasks of working on these developments, Steinbeis R-Tech has been laying down initial safety guidelines to establish safety requirements and the terms of use for the new kind of nanomaterials. The aim with the first draft of the document will be to heighten awareness among the project partners for so-called safety-by-design methods. This approach is also important for the ongoing development of existing guidelines and how they are applied in practice, subsequent to the European CWA 16649:2013 standards documentation on the management of new technology risks (the document convened by Steinbeis R-Tech). The second edition will focus on a variety of industrial applications involving the outlined methodologies with the aim of helping end-users.