Researchers have created naturally derived plastic using cellulose from tree barks

Cellulose, one of the most important organic substances found in abundance in nature, as well as an important component of the cell walls of wood seems to hold the secrets of a sustainable plastic of natural origin.

Cellulose nanocrystals (CNCs) are promising building blocks of sustainable polymer composites due to their excellent mechanical and chemical properties. The truth of the matter is confirmed by the research results of a scientific group from MIT -Massachusetts Institute of Technology- which succeeded in manufacturing a composite material consisting mainly of cellulose nanocrystals and a small amount of synthetic polymer. The content of organic crystals reaches 60 to 90% and is the highest CNC fraction achieved in a composite material to date.

It is a particularly strong cellulose-based material, described as harder and stronger than bone, as well as aluminum alloys.

“By creating high-load CNC composites, we can give polymer-based materials mechanical properties they’ve never had before,” says A. John Hart, professor of mechanical engineering, adding immediately afterward: “If we can replace some petroleum-based plastic with naturally-derived cellulose, this is arguably better for the planet too.”

Hart and his team published their results in the journal Cellulose

Scientists have been investigating the use of cellulose nanocrystals, which can be extracted from cellulose fibers, in recent years. The extremely strong crystals could be used as physical reinforcements in polymer-based materials. But researchers until now could only incorporate low fractions of CNC.

Hart’s team attempted and succeeded in developing a high-fraction CNC composite that could be molded into strong, durable shapes.

Cellulose is a product that nature’s “factory” produces in abundance. It is estimated that each year, more than 10 billion tons of cellulose are synthesized from the bark, wood or leaves of plants.

Finally, note that most of the cellulose produced is used for the manufacture of paper and fabrics, while a percentage of it is promoted for processing in order to be used in powder for food thickeners and cosmetic products.

Source: Εναλλακτική Δράση by

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