Industries around the world are looking to implement the use of alternative and sustainable materials in the products they manufacture, so that they not only decrease the carbon footprint, but also improve the properties of those products.
The use of alternative materials is being prioritised as the new profit-driving business innovation.
In this article, we explain what alternative materials are, what their benefits are and the types that exist.
What are alternative materials?
Alternative materials include waste materials and industrial by-products and offer an alternative to traditional engineered building materials such as asphalt, concrete, natural aggregates and others. In addition, they offer both economic and environmental incentives.
Alternative and emerging materials consist of innovative solutions that are part of a research field focusing on the design, production and understanding of new materials with revolutionary properties and their use.
In this respect, it is a highly interesting challenge that matches the properties of materials to the demand for the desired applications.
In order to meet the requirements of specific industrial use cases, new materials currently being developed have specific characteristics for each particular application. In addition, advances in materials science are leading to smart materials with programmable properties that behave or respond to stimuli from external factors.
Furthermore, alternative materials are often sustainable and therefore also serve to combat environmental problems and achieve a reduced carbon footprint.
Types of alternative materials in the manufacture of products
When manufacturing a new product, we can use either traditional materials or alternative materials. In the latter case, the options can be divided into two types:
Commercial alternative materials
These are materials that fulfil and improve the functions of traditional materials but which have not been created specifically for a certain product, but which already exist on the market and are adapted to improve the product.
Alternative innovation materials
This type of alternative materials are created in a laboratory, such as Infinitia’s, specifically for a specific product, so that it is able to comply with the applications, solve the problems faced by a material and, in short, improve the product thanks to the new material with which it is made.
Benefits of alternative materials
Companies that incorporate sustainable alternative materials into their process often see an increase in revenue because they end up using fewer resources, which in turn reduces production costs.
When engineers are challenged to find innovative solutions, the result is often the emergence of new ideas and alternative materials that improve performance, practices and products.
Sustainable materials management
Reusing materials in the most productive and sustainable way throughout their life cycle reduces waste and mitigates harmful effects on people and the planet. When industries focus on reducing greenhouse gas emissions and adopt sustainable materials management measures, they improve their performance.
Improving product properties
When it comes to finding new solutions, alternative materials are often at the forefront, solving problems or issues that would otherwise not be possible with traditional materials. This happens in all kinds of industries, from food to construction.
The alternative material influences and improves properties such as weight, load capacity and robustness, suitability for certain environments or uses, food compatibility, resistance to corrosion, resistance to extreme temperatures, etc.
Examples of alternative materials
Generally, the development of alternative materials aims to create sustainable, sensitive and intelligent materials that also offer improved physical properties. Examples include biodegradable plastics or bioplastics, thermo-adaptable fabrics or nanomaterials. In this respect, new formulations, such as nanomaterials and biomaterials, confer new functionalities to existing materials and broaden the scope for innovation.
Additive manufacturing, advanced composites and 2D materials also lead to the development of various lightweight materials. Together with informatics and materials management, surface engineering influences various sectors, from energy, automotive and construction to biotechnology, healthcare and textiles.
The development of alternative, innovative and advanced materials with superior functionalities is evolving on a daily basis. At INFINITIA Industrial Consulting we conduct pioneering research into these alternative and emerging materials leading to transformative technologies. Contact our Materials Innovation team to offer you the best solution.