In Pennsylvania, Penn State’s College of Agricultural Sciences researchers developed a polysaccharide polyelectrolyte complex made from cellulose pulp from wood or cotton and chitosan. Chitosan, as reported in Biofuels Digest in August, is derived from shellfish shells and is proving to be quite a strong and valuable biomaterial in many applications.
Researchers believe their new biomaterial can replace plastic barrier coatings in packaging, laminate flooring, and other applications to reduce environmental impact. The material performed well in their research. Jeffrey Catchmark, professor of agricultural and biological engineering and lead researcher told Phys.org, “We are trying to take the last step now and make a real impact on the world, and get industry people to stop using plastics and instead use these natural materials. So they (consumers) have a choice—after the biomaterials are used, they can be recycled, buried in the ground or composted, and they will decompose. Or they can continue to use plastics that will end up in the oceans, where they will persist for thousands of years.”