Green Polymers With Excellent Properties

Written by on May 23, 2011 in Polymers News, Uncategorized - No comments
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A prizewinning University of Florida team has devised a way to synthesise “green”, degradable polyesteracetal polymers – claimed to provide the strength of petroleum-based plastics, which is lacking in materials made from polylactic acid (PLA) and other “green” precursors. The research was funded as part of a $383,000 grant from the US National Science Foundation.

The polymer is licensed to UF spin-off company Florida Sustainables, which accepted the 2011 Cade Prize for Innovation for the work on 12 May.

Florida Sustainables hopes that polyesteracetals could replace non-sustainable materials in grocery bags, cups, milk jugs and other applications. The company has had talks with major potential customers such as Wal-Mart, PepsiCo and Procter & Gamble.

Wal-Mart buys 1 billion plastic bags per year and the worldwide market is 1 trillion bags, a Florida Sustainables spokesman said. He continued: “Wal-Mart said it was the best science they had seen, but weren’t prepared to get in that early, so our goal is to get this further along so we can walk into Wal-Mart, show them how it works and explain the cost structure.”

University of Florida graduate student and Florida Sustainables partner Ryan Martin, who invented the process, said that the new material withstands heat better than current “green” plastics, and is not brittle and noisy in use. Snack bags made from a previous degradable plastic had to be abandoned due to consumer complaints.

Polyesteracetals degrade within five to 10 years of their usable life, compared to 1,000 years for petroleum plastics, according to the team, and they do not require the composting conditions required by PLAs to break down.

The $50,000 Cade Prize will help fund product development, client relations and international patenting, Martin explained. The company also expects the prize to open doors to investors and clients. He concluded: “The money is a small part of this. It’s the attention, the stamp of approval.”


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