Introducing a simple step to the production of plant-derived, biodegradable plastic could improve its properties while overcoming obstacles to manufacturing it commercially, says new research from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln and Jiangnan University.
That step? Bringing the heat
Nebraska’s Yiqi Yang and colleagues found that raising the temperature of bio-plastic fibers to several hundred degrees Fahrenheit, then slowly allowing them to cool, greatly improved the bio-plastic’s normally lackluster resistance to heat and moisture.
Its thermal approach also allowed the team to bypass solvents and other expensive, time-consuming techniques typically needed to manufacture a commercially viable bio-plastic, the study reported.
Yang said the approach could allow manufacturers of corn-derived plastic – such as a Cargill plant in Blair, Nebraska – to continuously produce the biodegradable material on a scale that at least approaches petroleum-based plastic, the industry standard. Recent research estimates that about 90 percent of U.S. plastic goes unrecycled.