Chemical engineering

Researchers at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln have been looking for a way to develop a bioplastic derived from corn starch.

The term bioplastic is used to describe a plastic substance based on organic biomass, as opposed to petroleum. One of the greater advantages is that many bioplastics are biodegradable. This leads to a smaller energy footprint left by manufacturers, and can also address the concerns regarding overflowing landfills and islands of trash.

UNL biological systems engineering professor Yiqi Yang and colleagues have found a thermal approach that will make the plastic more susceptible to heat, making it easier for manufacturers to continuously produce. By raising the temperature of the plastic and then slowly allowing it to cool, Yang and colleagues have found a way around the expensive and time consuming ways that are most commonly used to create bioplastic.

It is estimated that about 90 percent of plastic goes unrecycled in the United States. The team is working to forward clean technology, which will allow for bio-based plastics to be produced on an industrial-scale.

The team’s report will be featured in the Chemical Engineering Journal this November.