Slight Modification in Cellulose Chemistry
By slightly modifying a very small portion of the chemistry of cellulose by introducing a “cinnamoyl” group, the researchers succeeded in making a specific CCi that is suitable for the formation of a new type of bioplastic with hydroplastic (i.e. soft and moldable on contact with water) polymers.
This means that it can be molded using little more than water at everyday temperature and pressure. This unique method – known as hydrosetting – enabled the researchers to produce a variety of shapes simply by immersing the bioplastic in water and leaving it to dry in the air. The molded shapes kept their stability in the long-term and could be reshaped repeatedly into a variety of 2D and 3D shapes. Although the plastic should not be used for direct contact with water – because it will lose its shape – it can hold water and be used in humid conditions. The CCi bioplastics showed high quality mechanical properties when compared with plastics that are currently widely used.
Simplified Plastic Production
The hydrosetting process avoids expensive and complex machinery and harsh processing conditions. This eco-friendly method highly simplifies plastics manufacture, making their processing and recycling more economical and sustainable. “This research offers tremendous potential for bioplastics like this to be applied in many different situations, such as biology, electronics and medicine,” says Zhang before adding: “In particular, the detrimental effects of plastics on the environment, which is damaging to all forms of life on earth, would be minimized by reusing hydroplastics with their unique features.”
“Our research provides a feasible method to design other eco-friendly hydroplastics from renewable resources,” explains Professor Kai Zhang from the University of Göttingen. “This should open up new avenues of research, stimulating further exploration of other sustainable bioplastics with superior mechanical properties and new features.”