“All of mankind is looking for a substitute for oil-based polymers,” Andres Krumme, a professor in TalTech’s Department of Materials and Environmental Technology, tells ScienceNet.com. “Today, we are packing everything, including food, in polymers that can have a useful lifetime of 10 to 60 years.”
Krumme’s cellulose-based plastic can be melted and processed in the same way as low-density polyethylene. “Cellulose biopolymer is generally highly crystallized with strong hydrogen bonds, which means it can’t easily be melted or processed,” Krumme adds. “But our new polymers—cellulose fatty acid esters—can be processed in the same way as the commodity polymers.”
Krumme also notes that cellulose is extremely abundant and using less than 1% of the planet’s resources could replace all petroleum-based plastics currently produced. Taltech is working to pilot the production process.