The majority of plastics in circulation today are synthetic and derived from crude oil, gas and coal, but recently we’ve seen an alternative emerge in the form of bioplastics, which are made from biomass such as plants, egg shells, chicken feathers or even by-products of tequila.
But bringing their performance up to speed poses a number of challenges, with bioplastics not offering the same properties as petroleum-based plastics. This includes things like strength and flexibility, but the team behind this new study has taken aim at one characteristic in particular: stability at high temperatures.
Consisting of scientists from the Japan Advanced Institute of Science and Technology and the University of Tokyo, the team sought its ingredients from the kraft pulping process that turns wood into pulp, deriving two aromatic molecules by the name AHBA and ABA.
These molecules were combined with recombinant microorganisms along with other chemicals and converted into polymers, which were in turn processed into a thermo-resistant film. The end product was a lightweight organic plastic produced without heavy inorganic fillers, and featuring the highest heat resistance of any plastic on record, enduring temperatures of 740 °C (1,364 °F). Promisingly, the team believes the technique can be adapted to other plastic types to improve their performance.