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Ear of corn makes ten compact discs

09 Oct 2003

Sanyo makes the world’s first commercial biodegradable optical disc – with material derived from the cornfield.

Japanese electronics giant Sanyo is to start selling the world’s first biodegradable compact disc.

The company says that it can make ten CDs from one ear of corn. The discs conform to CD standards and will be used for music, video and computer applications, says Sanyo.

Corn is used because it is a natural source of polylactic acid, a chemical that has similar optical and physical properties to polycarbonate, the material currently used in CDs and DVDs.

However, with annual disc demand at 10 billion units currently, Sanyo says that disposing of the non-biodegradable polycarbonate discs is an increasing problem.

“A special facility is needed to generate and withstand the great heat that it necessary to burn and dispose of the polycarbonate discs,” said the company.

Taking inspiration from its corporate slogan – “we care for people and the Earth” – Sanyo says that its new discs will degrade just like any other vegetation, and be broken down into water and carbon dioxide by micro-organisms in the Earth.

The company stresses that the discs are sufficiently durable and will only decompose over a long time period. “For use in regular temperatures there is no problem with durability,” claimed Sanyo.

With worldwide corn production at around 600 million tons, Sanyo reckons that around 0.1% of this would be required to make 10 billion discs.

The biodegradable discs will be marketed under the “MildDisc” brand from December this year.

Michael Hatcher is technology editor of Opto & Laser Europe magazine.

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