Portuguese researchers develop a fully biodegradable plastic substitute
A team of researchers led by the University of Coimbra (UC) has developed a plastic substitute using nanocellulose combined with a fibrous mineral, fully biodegradable and biocompatible.
img decoding=”async” src=”http://algarvedailynews.com/images/news2/20517.jpg” alt=”PORTUGUESE RESEARCHERS DEVELOP A FULLY BIODEGRADABLE PLASTIC SUBSTITUTE” width=”160″ style=”margin-right: 10px; margin-bottom: 5px; float: left;” />A team of researchers led by the University of Coimbra (UC) has developed a plastic substitute using nanocellulose combined with a fibrous mineral, fully biodegradable and biocompatible.
In a press release sent to the Lusa news agency, the UC stated that the new material has several applications, including “food packaging and electronic printing, opening doors to the manufacture of more sustainable plastics”.
According to the statement, the new material was developed over the last three years, in partnership with the Polytechnic Institute of Tomar (IPT) and the University of Beira Interior (UBI), with the collaboration of the Spanish company TOLSA.
This new ecological solution, “which, in practice, translates into a new class of composite films”, was produced from nanocellulose, “obtained through mechanical, chemical and enzymatic processes, combined with a fibrous mineral, a geological resource that allows cost reduction and improvement of very important mechanical and barrier properties”.
Cited in the statement, José Gamelas and Luís Alves, respectively project coordinator and principal investigator of the study, explained that the mechanical properties derive from the films “having to be resistant”, while the barrier properties are related to the impermeability to gases, that is, resistance to the environment”.
According to the two researchers from the Research Center for Chemical Process Engineering and Forest Products (CIEPQPF) of the Faculty of Science and Technology (FCTUC), “the great innovation” of this new plastic substitute is the use of fibrous minerals, “which do not have any health risk, and also the preparation of the films by filtration, which greatly speeds up the production process”.
“For example, with the conventional process it can take a week to obtain the films, while with the filtration method we can have the same films in a few hours and with better properties”, they guaranteed.
So far, the results obtained in the investigation “are highly promising, demonstrating that this could be a viable future solution. Increasing the production scale, optimizing processes and exploring the properties of these films for other applications, namely for the restoration of old books, will be the next steps of the project”, revealed José Gamelas and Luís Alves.
“Although the project was designed for food packaging and printed electronics, there are many other applications that can benefit from this solution, such as the conservation/restoration of important documents on paper that have problems of degradation with ageing”, they added.
The two scientists also recalled that the massive use of plastics and the “inability to properly recycle it is increasingly a topic of great importance in contemporary society”.
“Therefore, it is essential to search for new materials produced from non-fossil resources, that is, from renewable resources, to reduce the use of plastic”, they defended.
The research was carried out within the scope of the project “FilCNF: New generation of composite films of cellulose nanofibrils and mineral particles as materials with high mechanical strength and gas barrier properties”, financed by €190,000, by the Foundation for Science and Technology (FCT) and the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF).