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HR Excellence in Research - baner

Green polymers



A Polish research team headed by dr hab. Anna Masek, prof. PŁ, has been granted patent protection for fully green polymers, i.e. ones that are composed exclusively of products of plant origin. Plant drinking straws, food packaging, chairs, toys none of which will pollute the environment. You think it impossible? Well, think again!

 

 They can be fabricated from maize, waste biomass, thermoplastic starch, polylactide (i.e. lactic acid that you can find e.g. in the whitish film on pickles). Green polymers may successfully substitute polypropylene and polyethylene because they are rigid, transparent, and thermoplastic.

 

They are 100% biodegradable. They take 3 years or just 100 days to decompose in the composter, depending on the conditions.

 

Exposure to sunlight, rain, and higher temperatures turns them into biomass, carbon dioxide, and water. This renders them completely harmless to the environment. - They provide an alternative to oxidegradable polymers used e.g. in the production of foil eco-bags - says dr hab. Anna Masek, prof. PŁ. - That type of material oxidizes and decomposes but it decomposes into microplastics and metal ions. It gets out of our sight but is still present as nanoparticles. Green polymers decompose into environmentally friendly products that will not harm the soil but rather fertilize it instead.

 

The only problem is the cost as it is still almost four times greater than that of oil-based materials. You can buy a kilogram of polypropylene for less than one dollar but you'd need to shell out three and a half dollars to get a kilogram of polylactide (biopolymer).

 

Professor Anna Masek's research is innovative because it deals with fully biodegradable polymers of plant origin. What is more, their aging can be monitored. The patented materials can change their color, thus informing us about the shelf life of the contents of the packaging made of these polymers. A license for color indicators of aging time has been purchased by CDM, a company based in Ksawerów near Łódź. As Anna Masek explains - They will be added as insets in plant and food packaging, showing you the remaining shelf life of the product from the production to expiry date, which will help lower the risk of misleading shoppers as regards product freshness.

 

Prof. Anna Masek understands that biopolymers are a necessity and are the future, which is why she trains doctoral candidates who are also creative in their approach to the topic. The research projects are concerned, among others, with smart biopolymers - self-healing, biocidal, flame-retardant. – It is important to me not to do harm to future generations. I do not want them to inhabit a planet drowned in trash, but on the green planet that we all have been living on - adds Anna Masek. The philosophy of green polymers is significantly in line with the policy of sustainable development, which is why an increasing number of companies are demanding products that meet certain parameters.

 

The article was published on the website Życie Uczelni 


Date of record:2020-04-07
Date of actualization:
end date:
Submitted by:
Anna Boczkowska
Photos
dr hab. inż. Anna Masek z Wydziału Chemicznego PŁ

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