Biodegradable, plant-derived plastics have been proposed as a greener alternative to petroleum based plastic materials for packaging, single-use containers, textiles, and many other items. However, shortcomings in bioplastic’s resistance to moisture and heat, and its expensive and time consuming production process has limited its potential for use as commercially-viable material. Researchers from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln and Jianhnan University may have found a way to change that.

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Thermal Processing For Better Biodegradable Plastics

The new production process starts with bioplastic fibers derived from corn, which are heated to temperatures as high as 400 degrees Fahrenheit. The fibers are then slowly allowed to cool. This method of thermal processing incorporates enhanced heat and moisture resistance into the resulting plastic, overcoming two of the major flaws with plant-derived material. The process also eliminated the need to use solvents and other costly techniques that are standard in the processing of commercial-grade, plant-derived plastics.

Less Waste And Potential For More Output

For manufacturers, this new method would make it possible to create biodegradable plastic material that’s comparable to petroleum-derived plastics. Plastics derived from petroleum often end up as waste and environmental pollution once they’re no longer in use and often do not break down for decades, or more often, centuries. In addition to greener advantages, the new plant-derived plastic process’ bypass of solvent and additives amount to a considerable reduction in the cost of production and greater potential to scale up output for manufacturers.

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Researching Integration Into Existing Industrial Processes

The researchers are now working on ways to scale up their currently experimental procedures to see just how viable it may be for existing industrial process integration. Will their continued work start a major shift in how plastic is produced, used, and disposed of?


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