Materials and technologies – September 2023

03 October 2023

Using natural sources to create packaging materials
Scientists from Sainsbury Laboratory have improved wood's biomass conversion by adding the natural polymer callose, making trees more porous. Callose-enriched wood is easier to convert into sugars and bioethanol. It may benefit the packaging industry by enhancing biomass deconstruction for packaging materials and advanced biomaterials like cellulose nanofibrils. The study (15.50 MB) is published in Nature Plants.
KU Leuven researchers have developed a safe, sustainable, and biobased alternative to BPA, commonly used in plastics. This substitute, made from lignin, maintains BPA's strength and heat-resistant properties while reducing hormonal activity. It offers a potential solution for the packaging industry to create safe and eco-friendly products. While still in the lab-scale phase, further development aims to meet the urgent need for BPA alternatives as regulatory restrictions on bisphenols increase. The research (2.96 MB) is published in Nature Sustainability.

Environmentally friendly adhesives
Chemists at Purdue University have developed a sustainable adhesive system inspired by nature. Their adhesive, made from ingredients like epoxidized soy oil, is cost-effective, strong, and eco-friendly. This innovation could have significant implications for the packaging industry, offering an alternative to traditional adhesives and promoting recyclability. The study (12.87 MB) is published in Nature.
University of Surrey scientists have developed degradable polymers containing a chemical additive, thionolactone, which dissolves adhesive residue left on recyclable materials like glass and cardboard. This innovation addresses issues in the recycling industry, improving product quality, preventing damage to recycling machinery, and reducing water system blockages. The study (5.97 MB) is published in Angewandte Chemie.

Technology development
Researchers at the University of Bayreuth and the Georgia Institute of Technology have developed a digital system called "polyBERT" that analyses the chemical language of polymers. The system can identify, name, and generate theoretically possible polymers, assigning numerical "fingerprints" to represent their structures. The properties can be predicted quickly and accurately, potentially revolutionising polymer design, synthesis, and applications from around 100 million polymers. The technology is presented in a paper (1.56 MB) in Nature communications.
Case Western Reserve University is leading the development of a "smart packaging" system to monitor food shipments, potentially reducing waste and improving supply chains. This innovation could revolutionise the packaging industry by enhancing food quality, reducing spoilage, and offering cost-effective solutions. The research (5.10 MB) in published in Nano Energy.
In a recent article, Aimplas gives an update of the progress of the BioICEP project. The project focuses on three technologies that accelerate and increase the degradation of plastics. The three consecutive depolymerisation processes are: chemical disintegration, biocatalytic digestion, and microbial consortia. The products of the latter process will be used for the synthesis of new polymers enhancing the circularity of plastics. The project has thirteen participating partners besides Aimplas.

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