Has science finally found a replacement for plastic?
Researchers at Ohio State University in the US recently outlined in Polymer journal their creation of a tough material that can be used like plastic, but their product is not bad for the environment.
Normal plastic is not biodegradable, a major environmental concern.
The research team said they successfully created a product using a microbial fermentation system that functions as conventional plastic.
The study involved melting rubber into a plant-based thermoplastic called PHBV along with organic peroxide and trimethylolpropane triacrylate.
The end product was 75% tougher and 100% more flexible than PHBV on its own.
“Previous attempts at this combination were unsuccessful because the softness meant a loss of strength,” said lead author Xiaoying Zhao.
Earlier attempts were too brittle for food packaging, but this product is far easier to shape.
The product is also able to withstand the demands of a food package, which includes processing, shipping, and handling in stores and homes, said senior author Yael Vodovotz, a food science and technology professor.
Much of the researchers’ focus is on biodegradable materials to strengthen the mix.
The product, they said, could be used to create building materials, gloves or parts for cars and planes.