Materials and technologies – August 2023
Creating bioplastics from novel sources
Scientists from Berkley Lab, JBEI, and the Advanced Light Source successfully engineered E-Coli to turn sugar from plants into biological starting ingredients for polydiketoenamine (PDK). PDK can be repeatedly deconstructed into primary building blocks and formed into new packaging without quality loss and is therefore efficiently recyclable. The research (1.90 MB) is published in Nature.
ACS researchers have presented progress in creating biodegradable plastics from insect-derived chemicals. Using discarded black soldier fly carcasses, chitin, a biodegradable polymer, was extracted and converted into chitosan. The chitosan can be further transformed into useful bioplastics for packaging or other purposes. The recorded media briefing on this topic is available on YouTube.
Developments in the Backend processes of plastics
A team led by University of Washington researchers has developed novel bioplastics that can degrade in the same timescale as a banana peel in a composting bin and that are recyclable. The bioplastics are made from cyanobacteria cells using heat and pressure and with the same processing techniques used to create conventional plastics. The findings (abstract) are published in Advanced Functional Materials.
Michigan State University scientists have created a biobased polymer blend that is compostable in home and industrial settings. Thermoplastic starch is added into PLA, accelerating the degradation of PLA in the composting process due to its role as nutrient source and hydrophilic nature. It was found that PLA-based films can be successfully composted without compromising the desired properties for their applications. The work (3.37 MB) is published in ACS Sustainable Chemistry & Engineering.
A new method of turning low-value waste plastic into high-value products is described by researchers from the University of Wisconsin-Madison. Pyrolysis oil, obtained from heating plastics in an anoxic environment, contains important olefins to create various types of polyesters. In the novel method, the hydrocarbons are recovered from the oil by conversion into aldehydes and further reduction into alcohols. This process is much less energy-intensive than existing processes. The article (abstract) is published in Science.
Films and coatings
In a recent study (6.57 MB) published in Langmuir, researchers from Shinshu University have developed latex films composed of nanoparticles which exhibit crack-propagation resistance without any additives and are easily recyclable. A rotaxane-based strategy was used to produce the latex films offering many advantages, including toughness, flexibility, and degradability.
A research group from Poland and Portugal integrated ZnO nanoparticles into pectin films to create bio nanocomposites. These nanocomposites presented good antimicrobial properties, extending the shelf-life of poultry meat. While they reduced microbial growths and preserved freshness, they caused some discoloration and meat oxidation. Overall, this packaging has potential in the food industry. The article (2.23 MB) is published in Coatings.