Volvo Cars creates mobility solutions that aim to bring back the freedom to move in a safe, sustainable and personal way.
Sustainable innovation in the automotive branch can take many forms – but castor beans represent one of the more unusual cases. By compressing these beans, vegetable oil is produced, from which Amino 11 can be derived. Through polymerisation of Amino 11, it is possible to obtain 100 per cent bio-based polyamides, known as PA11.
Volvo Cars already uses PA11 in fuel applications – specifically in fuel pipes – because it offers better behavioural qualities compared with fossil-based alternatives. The success of this example has led to testing designed to identify other potential areas of application in the automotive industry. Research in this area is focusing on how PA11 could be used in quick connectors, cooling circuits, brackets, metal coatings and insulation.
Unlike many other crops, cultivation of the castor bean has a positive environmental impact. Castor beans are robust and can be grown in semi-arid to subtropical areas, and according to suppliers, their cultivation does not compete with the growing of other food crops. For the farmer, castor beans are an increasingly popular choice of crop in sustainable farming as they represent good profitability. In turn, this means they are readily available. Another benefit of the castor bean is that its derived products have high durability. This makes them recyclable and excellent candidates for circularity.
The cultivation and application of castor-bean-derived PA11 is just one example of how the natural world can be a catalyst for developments in sustainability. At Volvo Cars, innovation in this field will continue to be an important strand in the company’s environmental DNA.