bioplastics daily news
  • How natural do we want it....?


    A promising bioplastic derived from indole, a molecule found in feces, is currently under development that performs better and is more durable than both regular plastic and other bioplastics – and is potentially better suited for recycling.

    aAlmost all plastic is made from crude oil, and plastic production currently accounts for 4-6% of global oil consumption. The development of renewable bioplastics is progressing, but relatively few are actually being used.
    A strong candidate among bioplastics is polyethylene furanoate (PEF). Instead of oil, PEF contains the hydrocarbon, furan, which can be extracted from maize, wood and certain types of grain. The main market for PEF is packaging. Experiments have shown that PEF is superior to standard polyethylene terephthalate (PET) in protecting against oxygen, carbon dioxide and water, which gives products enclosed in plastic greater durability.

    The success of PEF made researchers at Sweden’s Lund University interested in other renewable materials that could potentially be used for plastic production. Chemical engineering doctoral student Ping Wang has produced a plastic based on indole, a heavier hydrocarbon molecule than furan, that is present in human faeces and smells accordingly. The compound is also found in lower concentrations in certain flowering plants and has a more agreeable aroma. This effect is due to our sense of smell decoding the aroma differently depending on the amount and combination.

    The research team is thought to be the only one researching indole polyesters, and their results are promising. A regular PET bottle’s glass-liquid transition temperature – when the material softens and deforms – is 70 degrees. The most successful PEF experiments withstand about 86 degrees. However, one of Ping Wang’s indole plastics is stable up to 99 degrees.

    “These are preliminary results, but we have seen that polyester plastic has better mechanical properties, which makes it more sustainable. This can lead to better recycling in the future. At present, PET bottles can only be recycled once, then they must be used for something else such as textiles”, said associate professor Baozhong Zhang, who is supervising the research team.

    Currently, indole is only produced on a small scale and used mainly in perfumes and drugs. It may be possible to use bioengineering methods to produce indole from sugar through fermentation. However, such a process would first need to be analysed more thoroughly before the production cost can be calculated.

    Ping Wang is continuing her research by examining the indole plastic’s potential in other application areas.

    “We obtained good results, but are not satisfied. Now we are trying to find methods for making higher quality indole polymers that can be used in more ways, not just for plastic bottles”, she concluded.

    Publication: Indole as a new sustainable aromatic unit for high quality biopolyesters

    Image: Ping Wang

  • Bio-based solvent produces superior quality graphene ink


    Bio-based solvent Cyrene®, made from cellulose and produced by the Australian biotechnology company Circa Group, has been found to outperform traditional, toxic solvents in the production and dispersion of graphene, which is used in a range of high-value commercial applications.

    mFollowing work by the University of York and the Spanish National Research Council (CSIC Madrid) reporting that Cyrene had “near-ideal physical properties for graphite exfoliation and the production of graphene dispersions”, the University of Manchester – the birthplace of graphene – has now successfully produced the highest quality conductive graphene ink ever reported using Cyrene® instead of NMP.

    These findings have far-reaching commercial applications and open up multi-million euro market opportunities for graphene in applications such as advanced composites and polymers, coatings, batteries and supercapacitors, 3D printed materials and functional fluids. More specifically, graphene inks can directly be applied to materials like textile and paper and used in many applications including transistors, sensors, antennas, radio frequency identification (RFID) tags and wearable electronics.

    Fabien Deswarte, Business Development Manager at Circa Group, said, “Graphene is one of the world’s most important nanomaterials and the growing body of scientific evidence – generated by world-class research teams – further validates Cyrene® as a viable alternative to toxic traditional solvents such as N-Methyl-2-Pyrrolidone (NMP). Graphene production and dispersion is one of the many applications Circa is targeting for Cyrene, which is outperforming traditional solvents in many high-value market applications such as the manufacture of specialty polymers and formulations of different kinds. For Circa and other companies looking for high-performance, non-toxic, sustainably-produced solvents – it’s a win-win-win situation.”

    Established in 2006, Circa Group converts waste biomass into advanced bio-based chemicals with its proprietary FuracellTM process at its prototype plant in Tasmania – a joint venture with Norske Skog. Circa’s developing product portfolio includes biosolvents, flavours and biopolymers, including Cyrene, an alternative to traditional polar aprotic solvents.

  • Sabic highlights solutions to address global sustainability


    SABIC is supporting Saudi Arabia’s participation in the Abu Dhabi Sustainability Week (ADSW) 2019 from January 14 to 17 by highlighting its innovative technologies that help address sustainability challenges in the world and the Kingdom’s leadership in sustainability in the region.

    saThe Saudi delegation is represented by the Ministry of Energy, Industry and Mineral Resources and a number of government agencies, research institutions and private sector companies.

    Led by Mustafa Alshehri, Sr. Manager, Sustainability, Middle East and Africa, the SABIC delegation is presenting several working papers on energy management and conservation, sustainability solutions, and new technologies for CO2 utilization.

    SABIC is highlighting the company’s initiatives that help create new solutions for some of the world’s greatest sustainability challenges.

    True to its tagline, ‘Chemistry that Matters™’, SABIC’s sustainability programs are aimed at benefiting society and stimulating sustainable growth in Saudi Arabia in line with Saudi Vision 2030. SABIC is presenting its initiatives and solutions that help raise energy efficiency and develop modern and innovative technologies to enhance sustainability.

    Under the theme, “Industry Convergence: Accelerating Sustainable Development,” ADSW is exploring how industries are responding to the digital transformation in the global economy. The main pillar of ADSW is Youth and Digitalization, while its other pillars cover Energy and Climate Change, Water, Future Mobility, Space, Biotechnology, and Tech for Good.

    On the sidelines of ADSW, SABIC signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) on January 14, with the National Industrial Clusters Development Program, the Korean OCI and the Chinese LONGI Green Technologies. Under the MoU, the participants will explore developing state-of-the art integrated manufacturing and production facilities for carbon black, solar grade polysilicon, photovoltaic ingots, wafers, cells and panels in the Kingdom.

    The MoU aligns with SABIC’s efforts under its national initiative “Nusaned” to enable Saudi Vision 2030 that seeks to diversify the Kingdom’s industrial and manufacturing base.

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