Ultramare air filter made of corn
Photo: Ultramare

Cleaner air with corn

Can corn replace plastics in air filters? In partnership with Region Västra Götaland, Swerea helped the air filter manufacturer Ultramare to develop a biobased filter media which is the active component in the filter.

In recent years, developments to replace the fossil raw material in plastics with alternatives such as sugar cane ethanol or fermented corn starch have truly taken off.

From starch to plastics

One plastic that is most associated with environmental friendliness is polylactic acid (PLA). It is mainly based on maize, but other starch-rich crops can also be used.

Although the new plastics have similar properties to traditional plastics, they need to be evaluated on a smaller scale before large-scale production can be initiated. Often they also need to be modified to fit into existing production processes. Ultramare wants to take responsibility and replace fossil based plastics with more environmentally friendly PLA in its air filter, without significantly affecting its performance.

Melt-blown to produce fine fibres

To produce a filter with high separation capacity, without requiring too high energy consumption in the manufacture, the fibres need to be as fine as possible. This could be achieved using Swerea’s meltblown machine, which has the ability to manufacture nonwoven materials with very fine fibres, down to 0.5 μm.

“We want to take responsibility and reduce our environmental footprint as a company and for our customers. Our goal is to continue to be the industry’s best environmental company and to contribute to achieving the world’s environmental goals, and not to ruin things for the next generation. The PLA filter is a product that is completely free of petroleum-derived raw materials,” says Ove Kärrnäs, CEO of Ultramare AB.

Agenda 2030 sustainability goals