Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Sweet and biodegradable: Sugar and cornstarch make environmentally safer plastics

Date:
December 14, 2010
Source:
American Friends of Tel Aviv University
Summary:
A new lactide-based variety of catalysts, which initiate or sustain reactions in chemical processes, is improving the production of "green" plastics, making them stronger and more heat-resistant. This research has applications in a variety of manufacturing fields, from car parts to plastic cups -- and is a significant step in the "greening" of the plastics and chemical industries.

Environmentalists around the world agree -- plastic bags are choking our landfills and polluting our seas. Now a Tel Aviv University researcher is developing new laboratory methods using corn starch and sugar to help sustainable plastics -- those that biodegrade and are even tougher than those made from petrochemicals -- compete in the industry.

The answer to the problem, Prof. Moshe Kol of Tel Aviv University's School of Chemistry says, is a new variety of catalysts -- substances that initiate or sustain chemical reactions in other substances. His team has already developed several of these new catalysts, and it's currently expanding its activities in partnership with the University of Aachen in Germany and the University of Bath in England.

Prof. Kol is improving the process of making these "green" plastics stronger and more heat-resistant, allowing them to be used in a variety of ways, from the automotive industry to Starbucks coffee cups. The type of plastic the partners are working on, polylactic acid or PLA, is a kind of biodegradable plastic made from renewable plant sources such as corn, wheat or sugarcane. It's already used in bottles, bags, and film, and like polyester can even be woven into clothes.

Making stronger and biodegradable "Lego blocks"

The new catalysts enable the polymerization of lactide, which is the building block of a corn-based plastic. Conventional catalysts have limited control of the way in which these building blocks -- the corn-based molecules -- are assembled -- and they may be toxic. But Prof. Kol's catalysts can be used more safely and efficiently, making "green" plastics more commercially feasible.

"The structure of these corn-based plastics depends on several parameters. The most important is the character of the building blocks, like Lego blocks, that hold the material together," says Prof. Kol. He aims to make sustainable corn-based plastics complement or replace the petroleum-based plastics which can take a millenium to degrade, leaving harmful pollutants in the soil and in water. Corn-based plastic wouldn't cause any adverse health effects and would be expected to biodegrade in a compost bin in a matter of months.

Lord of the plastic ring

Plastics won't be going away any time soon, Prof. Kol suggests, pointing to the movement from concrete or stainless steel to plastic in a variety of industries. Replacing the steel manifold of a car with a plastic substitute would cut down on fuel consumption, and replacing a water pipe made of concrete or metal with one made of corrosion- and crack-resistant plastic may improve the quality of our drinking water.

For disposable items, a perfect plastic material would be a polymer made from renewable resources, that degrades to its original non-toxic form. Plastics made from corn sugar are the most desirable in the industry at the moment.

The preliminary results of Prof. Kol's efforts are in, and the plastics that he and his team produce in the lab look and feel like polystyrene, which could be used for making drinking cups, for example. Rigid and transparent, the drinking cups currently only work for liquids under 122 degrees Fahrenheit, but they represent a first big step into greening plastics and the chemical industry.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by American Friends of Tel Aviv University. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Cite This Page:

American Friends of Tel Aviv University. "Sweet and biodegradable: Sugar and cornstarch make environmentally safer plastics." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 14 December 2010. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2010/12/101214111919.htm>.
American Friends of Tel Aviv University. (2010, December 14). Sweet and biodegradable: Sugar and cornstarch make environmentally safer plastics. ScienceDaily. Retrieved July 26, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2010/12/101214111919.htm
American Friends of Tel Aviv University. "Sweet and biodegradable: Sugar and cornstarch make environmentally safer plastics." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2010/12/101214111919.htm (accessed July 26, 2014).

Share This




More Matter & Energy News

Saturday, July 26, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Europe's Highest Train Turns 80 in French Pyrenees

Europe's Highest Train Turns 80 in French Pyrenees

AFP (July 25, 2014) Europe's highest train, the little train of Artouste in the French Pyrenees, celebrates its 80th birthday. Duration: 01:05 Video provided by AFP
Powered by NewsLook.com
TSA Administrator on Politics and Flight Bans

TSA Administrator on Politics and Flight Bans

AP (July 24, 2014) TSA administrator, John Pistole's took part in the Aspen Security Forum 2014, where he answered questions on lifting of the ban on flights into Israel's Tel Aviv airport and whether politics played a role in lifting the ban. (July 24) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Creative Makeovers for Ugly Cellphone Towers

Creative Makeovers for Ugly Cellphone Towers

AP (July 24, 2014) Mobile phone companies and communities across the country are going to new lengths to disguise those unsightly cellphone towers. From a church bell tower to a flagpole, even a pencil, some towers are trying to make a point. (July 24) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Algonquin Power Goes Activist on Its Target Gas Natural

Algonquin Power Goes Activist on Its Target Gas Natural

TheStreet (July 23, 2014) When The Deal's Amanda Levin exclusively reported that Gas Natural had been talking to potential suitors, the Ohio company responded with a flat denial, claiming its board had not talked to anyone about a possible sale. Lo and behold, Canadian utility Algonquin Power and Utilities not only had approached the company, but it did it three times. Its last offer was for $13 per share as Gas Natural's was trading at a 60-day moving average of about $12.50 per share. Now Algonquin, which has a 4.9% stake in Gas Natural, has taken its case to shareholders, calling on them to back its proposals or, possibly, a change in the target's board. Video provided by TheStreet
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:

Breaking News:
from the past week

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile: iPhone Android Web
Follow: Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe: RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins