Doug Patton jokes that he should apologize to all those children who love taking castor oil.
That's because auto supplier Denso Corp. is about to start manufacturing radiator end tanks that use a castor oil blend for its resin.
``What we're looking at is how we can use natural materials and get the environmental benefit of that,'' said Patton, senior vice president of Denso's U.S.-based Denso International America Inc., in Southfield, Mich.
Developed with DuPont, the new Zytel RS resin is 40 percent castor oil, a vegetable oil derived from the bean of the castor tree and used extensively in industrial applications in addition to its use as a food supplement.
Denso, based in Kariya, Japan, has tried using environmentally friendly products in radiator end tanks before, including an experiment with recycled nylon carpet.
The tanks are a demanding environment for any material and provide an intense real-world study for the plastic, Patton said Jan. 11 at the North American International Auto Show in Detroit.
``They're one of the key areas for reliability and durability of the product itself and a place where we can use other materials,'' he said. ``Tanks sit at the front of the vehicle. They're getting all the splash off the road and everything coming up into them: road salt and dirt and oil.''
With the Zytel RS, the firm wanted to move beyond the auto industry's use of soybean oil in bioresin, and castor oil which is already used in industrial applications was a good alternative.
``Its green benefit comes over its life cycle,'' said Hiromi Tokuda, Denso executive vice president. ``It can reduce [carbon dioxide] emissions by more than 30 percent when compared with conventional tanks because plant-based resins are made from plants that absorb [carbon dioxide] during photosynthesis. This makes the plant resin carbon neutral.''
Castor oil is also a stable crop, which could potentially help the company offset prince increases from standard resins, Patton said. ``Something like this can also be a cost advantage,'' he said.
The tank will be sold at the same price as standard nylon tanks. Production will begin this year at a Denso plant in Japan.