Replacing plastic with an environmentally friendly alternative is very important. Now, researchers from the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology Lausanne have developed a plant-based alternative for plastic - one which decomposes into sugar.
“The plastic has very exciting properties, notably for applications like food packaging,” research leader professor Jeremy Luterbacher at EPFL’s School of Basic Sciences said in a press release.
Plastic is such a useful material because of its durability. Its durability is also one of the reasons it’s such an environmental hazard. The team of researchers think they have found a very interesting alternative. Their new material is made from non-edible plant material and it resembles polyethylene terephthalate (PET).
“We essentially just ‘cook’ wood or other non-edible plant material, such as agricultural wastes, in inexpensive chemicals to produce the plastic precursor in one step,” Luterbacher said in the press release.
The researchers method adds simple chemicals to lignin (which is a natural polymer found in biofuel). Doing this converts it into a potential source for bio-based plastic or fuels according to EcoWatch. Interesting Engineering explains that for the chemical, the team first used formaldehyde, but then they started using a different organic compound.
“By using this simple technique, we are able to convert up to 25% of the weight of agricultural waste, or 95% of purified sugar, into plastic,” study first author Lorenz Manker said in the press release.
The team found that it was possible to turn the material back into sugars when it’s no longer needed. This far, the team have used the material to make films for packaging, textile fibers and 3D-printing filaments.
Picture: Alain Herzog (EPFL) via EcoWatch