Biodegradable Plastic Made from Sugar & Carbon Dioxide: Bath Scientists
| Subj: Media reviews
Some biodegradable plastics could in the future be made using sugar and carbon dioxide, replacing unsustainable plastics made from crude oil, following research by scientists from the Centre for Sustainable Chemical Technologies (CSCT) at the University of Bath.
Safer Form of Polycarbonate Plastic
Polycarbonate is used to make drinks bottles, lenses for glasses and in scratch-resistant coatings for phones, CDs and DVDs.
Polycarbonates from sugars offer a more sustainable alternative to traditional polycarbonate from BPA, however the process uses a highly toxic chemical called phosgene. Now scientists at Bath have developed a much safer, even more sustainable alternative which adds carbon dioxide to the sugar at low pressures and at room temperature.
Biodegradable and Bio-compatible
The resulting plastic has similar physical properties to those derived from petrochemicals, being strong, transparent and scratch-resistant.
The new BPA-free plastic could potentially replace current polycarbonates in items such as baby bottles and food containers, and since the plastic is bio-compatible, it could also be used for medical implants or as scaffolds for growing tissues or organs for transplant.
Dr Antoine Buchard, Whorrod Research Fellow in the University’s Department of Chemistry, said:
“Our process uses carbon dioxide instead of the highly toxic chemical phosgene, and produces a plastic that is free from BPA, so not only is the plastic safer, but the manufacture process is cleaner too.”
Using Nature for Inspiration
The New Process Converts Sugar to Plastic Using Carbon Dioxide Gas
In particular, they used nature as inspiration for the process, using the sugar found in DNA called thymidine as a building block to make a novel polycarbonate plastic with a lot of potential.
Georgina Gregory, PhD student and first author of the articles, explained:
“The properties of this new plastic can be fine-tuned by tweaking the chemical structure — for example we can make the plastic positively charged so that cells can stick to it, making it useful as a scaffold for tissue engineering.” Such tissue engineering work has already started in collaboration with Dr Ram Sharma from Chemical Engineering, also part of the CSCT.
Using Sugars as Renewable Alternatives to Petrochemicals
The researchers have also looked at using other sugars such as ribose and mannose.
Dr Buchard added:
This work was supported by Roger and Sue Whorrod (Fellowship to Dr Buchard), EPSRC (Centre for Doctoral Training in Sustainable Chemical Technologies), and a Royal Society research Grant.