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Sony Develops Non-Contact IC Card made from Vegetable-Based Plastic

September 01, 2004
In accordance with its approach to environmental conservation, Sony is making a concerted effort to use vegetable-based plastic, a biomass resource (*1), for use in making company products and their packaging materials.

Vegetable-based plastic benefits the environment in many ways and Sony is working proactively to develop the necessary technology in this area as a way to promote environmental conservation. Vegetable-based plastic has now been applied in four different Sony products and two types of packaging materials (*2).

Upon the above past achievement, Sony today announced that it has successfully developed the world's first non-contact IC card made from vegetable-based plastic.
The usage of non-contact IC card (*3) is increasing rapidly for its benefits on convenience and security.
Plastics such as polyethylene terephthalate (PET) are currently used in the manufacture of non-contact IC cards, as they pose the least threat to the environment, for example during incineration at the end of a product's life. However the new cards, made from vegetable-based plastic enabled the improvement of environmental consciousness.

Furthermore, by adjusting the balance of polylactic acid (*4) (the main source material for vegetable-based plastics) and the other composite materials, performance levels comparable to existing non-contact IC cards have been achieved across signal transmission, reliability and mechanical durability.

The new non-contact IC cards comprising 90% vegetable-based plastic in terms of thickness and volume (or approximately 75% in terms of total mass), offer numerous advantages such as reduced consumption of exhaustible resources, fewer greenhouse gas emissions, greater renewability and a more stable chemical composition.
Sony is committed to working actively over the long term to develop unique technology that will contribute to environmental conservation.
*1. Biomass resource is a general term for all agricultural or marine products including surplus and the untapped natural resources. It differs from petroleum or coal as they are renewable from the air, the earth, the sea and the energy of the sun. Biomass is increasingly regarded as a new resource for use in the fields of energy and materials.

*2. Examples of Applications for Vegetable-Based Plastics
Products:Walkman (WM-FX202), Super Audio CD/DVD Player (DVP-NS999ES), AIBO (ERF-210AW06J, and ERS-7)
Packaging Materials:

Portable Radio (ICR-P10) and the MiniDisc Neige Series
*3. Sony developed the FeliCa card using its own non-contact IC card technology.
Designed with built-in high-security features, FeliCa IC cards permit the rapid exchange of data, and are highly reusable since data can be easily replaced or updated. FeliCa technology has been adopted not only for the "Suica" commuter pass / stored fare card of East Japan Railway Company, but also in other fields such as the prepaid electric money service "Edy," employee, and membership identification.

*4. Vegetable-based plastic is created by using lactic acid bacteria (lactobacilli) to ferment starches and sugars derived from such organic sources as corn. The material then undergoes a chemical binding process (polymerization) to convert it to a polymer molecule form.
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