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New materials inspired by spider silk may help solve plastic problems

Credits: Shutterstock / Olga Miltsova

Plastic is a very convenient material. They have brought great benefits to modern society. However, unprecedented amounts of plastic produced in the last few decades are causing serious environmental pollution.


Only the packaging was responsible 46% of 340 million tons of plastic Waste generated worldwide in 2018. Plastic recycling Has increased significantly in recent years, and most plastics used today disposable, Non-recyclable, non-biodegradable.

Food demand will double by 2050. This will probably increase the amount of waste from food and its plastic packaging, putting great pressure on poor countries to control waste disposal.

We need more to tackle the problem of environmental destruction Sustainable materials What we can recycle or biodegrade. The proliferation of plant-derived plastics, many of which can only be composted in the following ways: Industrial process, Not by the person at home.

now researcher A research team at the University of Cambridge has found a way to make plastics from abundant and sustainable vegetable proteins. Inspired by spider silk, this film works like any other plastic, but can also be composted at home.

Types of plastic

Synthetic and non-biodegradable plastics commonly used in food packaging include polyethylene terephthalate (PET), polystyrene (PS), and crystalline polyethylene terephthalate (CPET).

Although there are several processes for disposing of PET, mechanical and chemical recycling techniques, most plastics in the world are still sent to landfills. PET can take hundreds of years to decompose and is non-biodegradable. This means that it can continue to pollute the ecosystem for years.

It takes a lot of energy to make plastic. And when plastic is thrown away, it causes environmental destruction such as global warming, greenhouse gas emissions, and damage to marine life.

New materials inspired by spider silk may help solve plastic problems

A new material that is active. Credit: Xampla

On the other hand, there are also biodegradable plant-based plastics such as: Polylactic acid (PLA), polybutylene succinate (PBS), polycaprolactone) (PCL), and polyhydroxyalkanoute (PHA) are more environmentally friendly than non-renewable polymers.

PLA polymer is manufactured from Renewable resources It has the advantage of being recyclable and compostable. This makes PLA a much more environmentally friendly material than PET, PS and CPET. However, their long-term durability and stability are lower than those of synthetic ones.

new material

A new study explored the potential of using biodegradable and renewable polymers, such as soy protein, to create new materials that could replace other plant-based plastics.

Researchers have created plant-based plastics and added nanoparticles (particles less than one millionth of a meter). This meant that the structure of the material could be controlled to create a flexible film with a material that looks like a spider silk at the molecular level. They call it “Vegan Spider Silk”.

The team used a variety of techniques, including scanning. Electron microscopy A transmission electron microscope for studying the structure of film.

They analyzed important properties such as barrier properties and moisture absorption. They found that nanoparticles helped to significantly improve a variety of properties: strength and long-term durability and stability.

Making plastics in a more environmentally friendly manufacturing process, which is itself made from sustainable materials, can save a significant amount of energy. This is one of the most exciting parts of this study.

This new material may help solve some of the problems that plastic pollution has brought to the environment.

This study could help increase sustainable packaging production while using natural resources to reduce energy consumption while reducing the amount of plastic entering the landfill.


Biodegradable plastic from palm oil waste


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New materials inspired by spider silk may help solve plastic problems

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