The material is made from grass and trees.

Gloss black finishes are a popular styling touch in automotive interiors today, and a new bio-plastic by NEC could add some Japanese artistry to that look in the near future. The tech giant has created a plant-based material that has the appearance of Japanese lacquerware.

Lacquerware is a millennia-old process of coating an object, often made from wood, with a substance that eventually hardens to form a resilient finish. While the color and texture can vary, Japan’s glossy Urushi black lacquer is among the most famous. However, it’s hard to mass produce because of the necessity to let the coating fully dry before applying more.

NEC’s process solves this problem. The company forms its bio-plastic from the cellulose resin of non-edible grasses and trees and mixes in fine particles of “black coloring agents and highly refractive organic ingredients.” Companies can form and mold the resulting material just like any other plastic.

During development, NEC even scientifically analyzed the work of a lacquerware artist to ensure the bio-plastic’s optical properties matched the real thing. Now, the company is looking to bring the material to market, and it thinks the interior of luxury cars could be a prime market. The stuff could be an option for automakers to offer a higher-class interior without offering real lacquered wood like on some Bentley and Rolls-Royce vehicles.

Source: NEC via Japan Times

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