Researchers from the University of Cambridge have created a material that could be an alternative to single-use plastics that are used in today’s households. The material, a polymer film, mimics the properties of spider silk, one of the strongest materials in nature.
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The material was created using a new approach for assembling plant proteins into materials which mimic silk on a molecular level. The energy-efficient method, which uses sustainable ingredients, results in a plastic-like free-standing film, which can be made at industrial scale. Non-fading ‘structural’ colour can be added to the polymer, and it can also be used to make water-resistant coatings.
The material is home compostable, whereas other types of bioplastics require industrial composting facilities to degrade. In addition, the Cambridge-developed material requires no chemical modifications to its natural building blocks, so that it can safely degrade in most natural environments.
The new product will be commercialised by Xampla, a University of Cambridge spin-out company developing replacements for single-use plastic and microplastics. The company will introduce a range of single-use sachets and capsules later this year, which can replace the plastic used in everyday products like dishwasher tablets and laundry detergent capsules. The results are reported in the journal Nature Communications.
This is a great scientific achievement, but I hope that its price will be reasonable when it is finally released in the market.
More details about the research over at EurekAlert.
(Image Credit: Xampla/ EurekAlert)