Apr, 2021 - By WMR
Yale University researchers have suggested a candidate that crosses a variety of boxes, creating a new bioplastic with high intensity, and has the potential to degrade fully in three months.
Scientists are working with more eco-friendly types of plastic in response to growing concerns over plastics, which are detrimental to the atmosphere both during manufacturing and after disposal. Yale researchers started with a wood powder that is typically discarded by lumber mills and reduced it to a slurry of organic polymers and cellulose with hydrogen bonding and entanglement at the nanoscale using a biodegradable solvent. This slurry could then be cast as a bioplastic, which the researchers put to the test against standard plastics.
“Many people have attempted to create these kinds of polymers in plastic, however the mechanical strands are not good enough to replace the plastics we actually use, which are still made from fossil fuels.” states co-author Yuan Yao, “We produced a simple and straightforward manufacturing process that not only produces biomass-based plastics from wood, and also plastic with good mechanical properties.”
The researchers focused at burying bioplastic sheets in soil for two weeks, after which they fractured and fully eroded in three months. The bioplastic was also highly efficient mechanically, flexible when holding liquids, and UV light resistant. However, it is degrading quickly, the bioplastic can be recycled to its original slurry state, which allows the solvent to be extracted and reused. This new bioplastic could be molded into a film for bags and packaging, or even into items for building and automotive manufacturing, according to the researchers.
“To me, that's what makes this plastic so well: it can all be recycled or biodegraded,” Yao says. “We've reduced the amount of products and waste that goes into the environment.”