The development of heat-resistant bioplastics could greatly help reduce the use of petroleum-based plastics
Spotted: As plastics made from petroleum products are increasingly seen as unsustainable, we have seen a big move towards the development and use of bioplastics. These include products made from sugarcane, seaweed, cooking oil and prickly pears. However, most bioplastics do not offer the same strength, flexibility and heat resistance as petroleum-based plastics.
Now, a research team from the Japan Advanced Institute of Science and Technology and the University of Tokyo, have developed a plastic from wood pulp. They extracted the aromatic molecules known as AHBA and ABA from the pulp, then combined them with microorganisms and other chemicals, in order to develop a novel polymer. This, in turn, was processed into a thermo-resistant film.
The final product was lightweight and had the highest heat resistance of any plastic on record. The plastic can maintain its integrity at temperatures over 740 °C (1,364 °F), and the team also believes the technique could be adapted to improve the performance of other plastics.
The development of heat-resistant bioplastics could greatly help reduce the use of petroleum-based plastics. In a press release, the team wrote: “This innovative macromolecular design increases thermoresistance and can be widely applied to well‐processable plastics for the production of lightweight materials and is expected to contribute to the development of a more sustainable society.”
Bioplastics are made by converting the sugar found in plants into plastic. The sugars are fermented by bacteria or yeast in big vats to produce long chains of molecules called polymers, which are essentially plastics. Almost any plant that contains sugars can be used to create bioplastics. At Springwise, we have seen this variety in bioplastics made from seaweed, cocoa bean shells and agave — the same plant used to make tequila.
Written By: Lisa Magloff