While the debate on whether bioplastics are thwarting global dependence of single-use plastics or simply a greenwashing scam, a new study released by Aalto University shows promise for burgeoning material discoveries that could potentially replace petroleum-based plastics.
Aalto University and VTT researchers have developed a new biopolymer by gluing cellulose fibers from wood with the silk protein found in spider webs. This new materials rivals the strength of typical plastics, and could be used in place of plastic for future products. In addition to unparalleled strength, the advantage of this material is that it would be entirely biodegradable.
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For those aware of the arguably unethical process of silk harvesting need not worry as the silk proteins used in development are synthetic. Aalto University professor Markus Linder reports in a recent press release, “‘Because we know the structure of the [spider web silk’s] DNA, we can copy it and use this to manufacture silk protein molecules which are chemically similar to those found in spider web threads. The DNA has all this information contained in it’.”
This study is just one of many demonstrating the potential for new materials to take the place of their more harmful counterparts in the future. Only time will tell which materials ultimately win out.