Plastic waste is a growing problem globally; that is because of the inherent harmful effects it causes to the environment. It is also tough to deal with such waste, as only burning will lead to the release of toxic gases.
In order to diminish this problem, researchers from a university have developed a film that can replace plastic in food packaging. This film is made from hydroxypropyl methylcellulose (HPMC) and pieces of bacterial cellulose, which are usually seen as unwanted by bio-films manufacturers. The reason why bacterial cellulose was chosen instead of plant cellulose is that it can be produced in the lab at any time. And, it is a purer molecule, so it generates less pollution as well. Besides, bacterial cellulose contains a nanometric fiber that provides it with high tensile strength. This is very beneficial in manufacturing of food packaging.
The problem faced while making films from HPMC and other biopolymers are that they have low mechanical strength compared to traditional films derived from petroleum. Also, they are highly porous to water vapor, which limits their applicability. The researchers countered this problem by adding bacterial cellulose, which led to an improvement in HPMC properties. This new research may contribute to the development of the Biodegradable Polymer Consumption Industry as it brings forward a polymer that has enhanced properties in terms of strength and permeability. It can be used in other applications, which it couldn’t before due to its subpar quality.
To produce this polymer, the team, in the first step, crushed the pieces of bacterial cellulose into a fine powder. Bacterial Cellulose was obtained from a local company that is indulged in making biofilms for dressing wounds. The researchers then subjected the powder to sulphuric acid hydrolysis, which resulted in the production of a bacterial cellulose nanocrystal suspension.
As a next step, to achieve the desired film properties, the team performed a sequence of tests. They ultimately reached the optimal distribution of nanocrystals contained in the HPMC matrix employing high-energy dispersion done through a Turrax dispenser. In the end, the film-forming dispersion was set down on a substrate. It took 24 to 48 hours for the solvents to evaporate. Once they did, a transparent food-grade film was produced.
Although this newly made film has more robust material and is less porous than other types of films, which are only made from HPMC. It still has a somewhat higher than required water absorption and cannot currently be brought into the market unless further developments occur in the current product.
This new film is a significant development in Biodegradable Mulch Film Market as the team used components in the film that are sustainable and ecologically correct and better than their counterparts, i.e., products made from petroleum.
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