Our Own Research Institutes: Sustainability Knowledge Is in Our Hands

Our Own Research Institutes: Sustainability Knowledge Is in Our Hands
Gao Jun – Senior Manager Raw Material

Yanfeng has been devoted to the development and application of sustainable materials and processes for many years. In 2019 we established the Metal Materials Research Institute (MMI) and the Non-Metal Materials Research Institute (NMI), further increasing our investment in this field. We strive to seek reusable, renewable, and recyclable solutions to reduce waste generation and minimize the negative environmental impact. Let us meet with materials expert Gao Jun, Senior Manager Raw Materials, to see how Yanfeng drives the application of sustainable material technologies.

Gao Jun, in which fields do the Yanfeng Non-Metal Materials Research Institute and Metal Materials Research Institute conduct their research?

“The Non-Metal Materials Research Institute mainly conducts research on plastics, rubber, and other materials. It aims to achieve sustainable development through the use of bio-based materials, recycled materials, and low-carbon materials. Currently, the NMI is researching and developing polyurethane foam, glue, skin, and other materials. We hope to master advanced materials technology through independent research and development, such as transparent materials, self-healing materials, and functional materials.

One of the main tasks of the daily research and development of the Metal Research Materials Institute is to apply renewable metal and low-carbon materials to our product design. This MMI is committed to building the capability of metal materials research and development through solid basic research of metal materials, advanced materials, and process development and thereby improving core competitiveness.”

How is Yanfeng progressing in the research and development of sustainable plastics?

“We divide Yanfeng’s components into three categories: safety parts, hidden parts, and visible parts. In the past, the plastic materials used in these three categories of products were all raw materials. With Yanfeng’s in-depth research on sustainable materials, the future strategy is to increase the use of recycled materials. 
To realize this, we’ll take a few steps. The first step is to use original raw materials for safety parts, while using mechanically recycled materials for hidden parts, and a mix of raw materials and mechanically recycled, recyclable materials for visible parts. Yanfeng is currently developing various kinds of recycled plastics, among which PP-T20 that can achieve 20–50% recyclability, PP-SGF20 that can achieve 20–50% recyclability, and PC/ABS that can achieve 40–65% recyclability.

The second step is to use chemical and bio-based renewable materials for safety parts; mechanically recycled renewable materials and bio-based plastics for hidden parts; and chemical and bio-based renewable materials and bio-based plastics for visible parts.

We are currently researching renewable and bio-based plastics and jointly developing them with core suppliers.”

Now to the final question, Gao Jun, could you give us some examples of the innovative application of sustainable materials in our products?

“Yanfeng’s accumulated research in the field of nonmetal materials enables us to launch innovative technologies that meet the needs of future sustainable development. For example, we have launched products such as EcoSkin 2.0, a fully recyclable interior soft touch skin, and recycled carbon-fiber cross car beams.

EcoSkin 2.0 is produced using low-energy injection processes and achieves the texture effect of genuine or simulated leather through special texture techniques. The use of special environmentally friendly, water-based coatings enhance the smooth tactile feel and stain resistance. This is an eco-friendly material that exhibits excellent heat resistance, UV resistance, high stability at different temperatures, and low VOC emissions. Compared to using PVC materials, it can reduce carbon dioxide emissions by 50%. Currently, dark-colored EcoSkin products are ready for mass production, while light-colored products are still under development.

In addition, considering that traditional interior skins are usually made of thermosetting materials that cannot be recycled, and conventional leather is processed from various material combinations that are also not conducive to recycling, Yanfeng aims to develop a 100% recyclable soft-touch skin to reduce carbon emissions. The fully recyclable skin is born from this goal. The material utilizes bio-based raw materials and is free of solvents and plasticizers. Both the surface and bottom material layers are made from the same material, enabling overall recycling.”

To read more and check out our 2022 ESG Report, click here