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Novel bio-inspired materials to substitute plastics


Researchers from the Singapore University of Technology and Design (SUTD) developed a novel approach to manufacture biodegradable substitutes for plastic.

The team make use of the two most prevalent organic compounds on the planet: cellulose and chitin. They combine the two by mimicking the wall of the fungus-like oomycetes, that is, by introducing small amounts of chitin between cellulose fibers.

The resulting fungal-like adhesive material(s) (FLAM) are strong, lightweight and completely sustainable, as no organic solvent or plastic is used in their production. They can be molded or processed using common woodworking techniques, they are lightweight and fully biodegradable.

FLAMs are cost-effective substitutes of common filaments for 3D printing, and their manufacture is scalable. Their invention won Professor Stylianos Dritsas (ASD) and Professor Javier Gomez Fernandez (EPD) the innovation prize for the 2018 Purmundus 3D Printing Technology and Design competition- one of the biggest events in additive manufacturing.

Image credit: SUTD

In another approach for producing sustainable alternatives to plastic, Phee is a Greek-based company that produces a flat panel made from the combination of biological resins and the dead leaves of seagrass Posidonia Oceanica, which are commonly washed up the shores of the Mediterranean every year and disposed as waste. The patented material is cellulose-based, fire-resistant and is so far used for the production of furniture, packaging and accessories like phone cases and sunglasses.

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