Introducing a simple step to the production of plant-derived, biodegradable plastic could improve its properties while overcoming obstacles to manufacturing it commercially, says new research from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln and Jiangnan University.
That step? Bringing the heat.
Nebraska’s Yiqi Yang and colleagues found that raising the temperature of bio-plastic fibers to several hundred degrees Fahrenheit, then slowly allowing them to cool, greatly improved the bio-plastic’s normally lackluster resistance to heat and moisture.
Its thermal approach also allowed the team to bypass solvents and other expensive, time-consuming techniques typically needed to manufacture a commercially viable bio-plastic, the study reported.
Yang said the approach could allow manufacturers of corn-derived plastic – such as a Cargill plant in Blair – to continuously produce the biodegradable material on a scale that at least approaches petroleum-based plastic, the industry standard. Recent research estimates that about 90 percent of U.S. plastic goes unrecycled.
“This clean technology makes possible (the) industrial-scale production of commercializable bio-based plastics,” the authors reported.
Not easy being green
The approach uses polylactic acid, or polylactide, a component of biodegradable plastic that can be fermented from corn starch, sugarcane and other plants. Though most plastics are made from petroleum, polylactide has emerged as an environmentally friendlier alternative.
Yet polylactide’s susceptibility to heat and moisture, particularly during the manufacturing process, has limited its use in textiles and other industries. In searching for ways to address the issue, researchers long ago discovered that mixing mirror-image polylactide molecules – generally referred to as “L” and “D” – could yield stronger molecular interactions and better performance than using just the L or D alone.
But there was another catch. Convincing a reasonable proportion of the L and D molecules to permanently pair up is difficult, often forcing researchers to concoct costly and complicated matchmaking schemes. Some of the most common involve the use of solvents or other chemical agents whose disposal can cause environmental issues of their own.
“The problem is that people couldn’t find a way to make it work so that you could use it on large scales,” said Yang, Charles Bessey Professor of biological systems engineering and of textiles, merchandising and fashion design. “People use nasty solvent or other additives. But those are not good for continuous production.
“We don’t want to dissolve the polymers and then try to evaporate the solvents, and then have to consider reusing them. That’s just too expensive (and) not realistic.”
Yang and his colleagues decided to pursue another approach. After mixing pellets of the L and D polylactide and spinning them into fibers, the team rapidly heated them to as hot as 400 degrees Fahrenheit.
The resulting bio-plastic resisted melting at temperatures more than 100 degrees higher than did plastics containing only the L or D molecules. It also maintained its structural integrity and tensile strength after being submersed in water at more than 250 degrees, approximating the conditions that bio-plastics must endure when being incorporated into dyed textiles.
The textile industry produces about 100 million tons of fibers annually, Yang said, meaning that a feasible green alternative to petroleum-based manufacturing could pay off both environmentally and financially.
“So we just used a cheap way that can be applied continuously, which is a big part of the equation,” Yang said. “You have to be able to do it continuously in order to have large-scale production. Those are important factors.”
Though the team has demonstrated continuous production on a smaller scale in Yang’s lab, he said it will soon ramp up to further illustrate how the approach might be integrated into existing industrial processes.
The Latest on: Bioplastics
[google_news title=”” keyword=”bioplastics” num_posts=”10″ blurb_length=”0″ show_thumb=”left”]
- SoCal Company Leads Fight Against Plastic Plague With Hemp Bioplasticson November 27, 2023 at 5:31 pm
The proprietary products include a range of strong and durable items such as plastic bags, straws, cups, and utensils. By REENA RATHORE INGLEWOOD, CA – As the world continues to find ways to beat ...
- World’s first low-energy bioplastics raises $2Mon November 27, 2023 at 4:00 pm
Founded by entrepreneur Shaun Chatterton in 2011, Floreon has developed a range of bioplastics made from plants, including corn and sugar cane, with performance comparable to Acrylonitrile Butadiene ...
- NatureWorks enters into two new distribution agreementson November 27, 2023 at 7:43 am
Bioplastics maker NatureWorks LLC has entered into new North American distribution agreements with two material suppliers.
- Dutch firms set to create bioplastics from agri-food side streams / PHA ‘can prevent plastic pollution and microplastics'on November 26, 2023 at 9:06 pm
Dutch firms set to create bioplastics from agri-food side streams / PHA ‘can prevent plastic pollution and microplastics' Two bio-tech companies in the Netherlands have teamed up to produce ...
- Three winners of National Innovative Startup Competition 2023 announcedon November 25, 2023 at 2:00 am
BUYO Bioplastics, AIRX CARBON and CENERGY become the three winners of the National Innovative Startup Competition 2023 at Techfest Vietnam 2023 on November 24.
- Global Automotive Bioplastics Market Poised to Reach US$ 2.1 Billion Revenue by 2033on November 22, 2023 at 9:46 pm
By 2033, the value of the worldwide automotive bioplastics market is projected to have increased from US$ 761.06 million in 2023 to US$ 2,103.28 million. Over the next ten years, the global market for ...
- World’s first low-energy bioplastics developed with the University of Sheffield raises £2 million investmenton November 21, 2023 at 3:15 am
The world’s first low-energy, non-oil-based, high-performance bioplastic, developed by Floreon with the University of Sheffield, has secured £2 million financing from Northern Gritstone.
- Bioplastics News Streamon November 19, 2023 at 4:00 pm
One of the most dynamic categories in plastics is for bioplastics aka biopolymers and related bio-based materials made from renewable sources. The articles PlasticsToday publishes related to this high ...
- Bioplastics 101: what is truth and what is lore?on November 14, 2023 at 4:00 pm
The Packaging and Packaging Waste Regulation (PPWR) is the talk of town in Brussels these days giving rise to studies, deep debate, and controversy, especially in the bioplastics sector.
- Bioplastics are vital in efforts to fight ‘wicked problem’ of plastic pollutionon November 14, 2023 at 10:30 am
Bioplastics can help address the “wicked problem” of plastic pollution, but companies and research institutions need to take a holistic approach, says Steven Pratt, director of the University of ...
via Google News and Bing News