A Boston-area technology company has patented a variety of plastic/cellulose-fiber composites that it claims are cheaper and stronger than conventional materials based on resins and wood fiber.
Xyleco Inc. of Woburn, Mass., has taken out several U.S. patents covering composites made from long cellulose fiber from waste milk cartons and other paper and wood-fiber sources. The fibers are mixed with plastic resins that also can be sourced from waste streams. Fiber length and the use of coupling agents make composites more than twice as strong as unreinforced resin, according to the firm's patents.
President Marshall Medoff said the composites are promising construction materials because they are several times stronger than typical plastic/wood composites mainly used in cladding applications.
Xyleco has prepared composites that can be shaped using injection molding, extrusion and other processes.
The breadth of patents means they have potential market value of billions of dollars, estimated Sam Khoury, president of technology appraisal firm Inavisis Inc. of San Diego, Calif. That ``conservative'' value assumes Xyleco would license technologies to companies capable of making them commercially viable, Khoury said in a telephone interview.
Medoff said Xyleco is talking with materials and machinery companies about possible licenses. He said the talks are not exclusive, and the company is open to discussion with more possible partners.
Xyleco has been developing the materials since 1994.
Xyleco refers to the new materials as ``poly-coated paper composites.'' Part of Khoury's evaluation included looking at the materials' potential for pallet making, for which Xyleco holds a patent. Khoury said the composites are strong enough to make reusable pallets that can replace wood.
Medoff said the composites can use a range of thermoplastic or thermoset resins.
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