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 April 17, 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 April 17, 2014).

Share This



More Matter & Energy News

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Small Reactors Could Be Future of Nuclear Energy

Small Reactors Could Be Future of Nuclear Energy

AP (Apr. 17, 2014) After the Fukushima nuclear disaster, the industry fell under intense scrutiny. Now, small underground nuclear power plants are being considered as the possible future of the nuclear energy. (April 17) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Honda's New ASIMO Robot, More Human-Like Than Ever

Honda's New ASIMO Robot, More Human-Like Than Ever

AFP (Apr. 17, 2014) It walks and runs, even up and down stairs. It can open a bottle and serve a drink, and politely tries to shake hands with a stranger. Meet the latest ASIMO, Honda's humanoid robot. Duration: 00:54 Video provided by AFP
Powered by NewsLook.com
German Researchers Crack Samsung's Fingerprint Scanner

German Researchers Crack Samsung's Fingerprint Scanner

Newsy (Apr. 16, 2014) German researchers have used a fake fingerprint made from glue to bypass the fingerprint security system on Samsung's new Galaxy S5 smartphone. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Porsche CEO Says Supercar Is Not Dead: Cue the Spyder 918

Porsche CEO Says Supercar Is Not Dead: Cue the Spyder 918

TheStreet (Apr. 16, 2014) The Porsche Spyder 918 proves that, in an automotive world obsessed with fuel efficiency, the supercar is not dead. Porsche North America CEO Detlev von Platen attributes the brand's consistent sales growth -- 21% in 2013 -- with an investment in new technology and expanded performance dynamics. The hybrid Spyder 918 has 887 horsepower and 944 lb-ft of torque, but it can run 18 miles on just an electric charge. The $845,000 vehicle is not a consumer-targeted vehicle but a brand statement. 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