Researchers at Ford Motor Company are looking to biomimicry in hopes of improving adhesives and increasing the recyclability of auto parts.
Improving the recyclability of auto parts by replacing (or otherwise reducing or eliminating) the glue it uses to adhere foams to plastics and metals could give Ford’s sustainability performance a boost. The adhesives it currently uses make disassembling the parts for recycling nearly impossible. Ford is sharing its research findings in a partnership with Procter & Gamble (P&G) as their teams investigate potential biomimetic business solutions.
“Solving this problem could provide cost savings and certainly an environmental savings,” said Debbie Mielewski, Ford senior technical leader for plastics and sustainability research. “It means we could increase the recycling of more foam and plastics, and further reduce our environmental footprint.”
Biomimicry is the concept of solutions inspired by nature. The Biomimicry Institute has worked to empower people to create sustainable products and services using biomimicry since 2006. It hosts design challenges, including new corporate-employee challenges.
“Ford and P&G are the first companies to take part in these new corporate-employee challenges,” explained Gretchen Hooker, project manager for design challenges at The Biomimicry Institute.
“We are excited for the opportunity to participate, together with Ford — with whom we have a history of collaboration — in The Biomimicry Institute workshop,” said Lee Ellen Drechsler, director for corporate connect and development at P&G. “We have an interest within Procter & Gamble for using biomimicry as a way to broaden our approach to solving tough research challenges.”
Ford is particularly interested in geckos because of their sticky toe pads. The pads allow the lizards to stick to most surfaces without liquids or surface tension and without leaving a residue when it releases itself. Even more impressive, a gecko weighing 2.5 ounces is capable of supporting 293 pounds.
“As we look to further our commitment to reducing our environmental footprint, taking a holistic, biomimetic approach makes sense because nature has efficiencies in design and uses minimal resources,” said Carol Kordich, global sustainable fabric strategies and development at Ford. “Nature is the ultimate guide.”
Researchers said the gecko may also inspire fabric technologies that could transform the cabin of Ford vehicles. The company has previously seen successes in yarn production for seating materials and headliners using Coke’s PlantBottle material. Ford is also researching sustainable alternatives for rubber.