Researchers at Harvard's Wyss Institute have developed a method to carry out large-scale manufacturing of everyday objects — from cell phones to food containers and toys — using a fully degradable bioplastic isolated from shrimp shells. The objects exhibit many of the same properties as those created with synthetic plastics, but without the environmental threat. The process also trumps most bioplastics on the market today in posing absolutely no threat to trees or competition with the food supply.
The Wyss Institute team developed its bioplastic from chitosan, a form of chitin, which is a powerful player in the world of natural polymers and the second most abundant organic material on Earth.
Using traditional casting or injection molding manufacturing techniques, the researchers process the material so that it can be used to fabricate large, 3D objects with complex shapes.
This advance validates the potential of using bioinspired plastics for applications that require large-scale manufacturing. The next challenge is for the team to continue to refine their chitosan fabrication methods so that they can take them out of the laboratory, and move them into a commercial manufacturing facility with an industrial partner.
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