Materials

Plastic made from biomass logs the highest heat resistance on record

Plastic made from biomass logs...
Conventional plastics made from petroluem products boast properties that bioplastics don't, but scientists are working to make up the difference
Conventional plastics made from petroluem products boast properties that bioplastics don't, but scientists are working to make up the difference
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Conventional plastics made from petroluem products boast properties that bioplastics don't, but scientists are working to make up the difference
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Conventional plastics made from petroluem products boast properties that bioplastics don't, but scientists are working to make up the difference

Scientists in Japan have produced a plastic with the highest heat resistance ever reported, and done so by using natural materials as the building blocks. This biomass-derived plastic therefore promises not just greater performance in some aspects than conventional plastics, but paves the way toward greener production for the omnipresent material.

The majority of plastics in circulation today are synthetic and derived from crude oil, gas and coal, but recently we’ve seen an alternative emerge in the form of bioplastics, which are made from biomass such as plants, egg shells, chicken feathers or even by-products of tequila.

Making plastics in this way could not only lessen our reliance on fossil fuels (which first need to be refined in an energy-intensive manner), but lead to materials that are far friendlier for the environment once they’ve served their use, biodegrading in just a fraction of the time.

But bringing their performance up to speed poses a number of challenges, with bioplastics not offering the same properties as tried-and-true petroleum-based plastics. This includes things like strength and flexibility, but the team behind this new study has taken aim at one characteristic in particular: stability at high temperatures.

Consisting of scientists from the Japan Advanced Institute of Science and Technology and the University of Tokyo, the team sought its ingredients from the kraft pulping process that turns wood into pulp, deriving two aromatic molecules by the name AHBA and ABA.

These molecules were combined with recombinant microorganisms along with other chemicals and converted into polymers, which were in turn processed into a thermo-resistant film. The end product was a lightweight organic plastic produced without heavy inorganic fillers, and featuring the highest heat resistance of any plastic on record, enduring temperatures of over 740 °C (1,364 °F). Promisingly, the team believes the technique can be adapted to other plastic types to improve their performance.

“This innovative macromolecular design increases thermoresistance and can be widely applied to well‐processable plastics for the production of lightweight materials and is expected to contribute to the development of a more sustainable society,” the team writes.

The research was published in the journal Advanced Sustainable Systems.

Source: Japan Advanced Institute of Science and Technology via AlphaGalileo

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