A team of Ohio State researchers have developed a material that could help reduce plastic pollution.
Until now, bioplastics made from renewable resources like sugar and cornstarch have historically been too brittle for wide industrial use. Post-doc researcher and lead author Xiaoying Zhao says she and her team have developed a new bioplastic that resembles conventional plastic, but has a smaller environmental footprint both in the way it's made and in the fact it's biodegradable.
“Our research was to improve its flexibility and toughness by blending it with natural rubber," Zhao said.
Rubber, although it increases a bioplastic’s flexibility, also tends to weaken the material. Previous attempts to blend bioplastics with rubber have weakened the material by up to 80 percent. To counteract that, the team used a new mix of chemicals to create a stronger material blend, and their result was a 30 percent strength loss.
Zhao says their next steps are to explore its potential applications and work with manufacturers to scale up production.