A few months ago, we introduced you to a biodegradable water bottle that is 100% eco-friendly. Now, a new item as been invented that will hopefully help end the plastic epidemic that has plagued our planet.
The latest item will help put an end to single-use plastic food packaging as researchers from the Georgia Institute of Technology have created a flexible film that could replace the unrecyclable, non-decaying plastic packaging.
The new invention is made by spraying alternating layers of chitin and cellulose fibers, sourced from discarded crab shells and wood pulp, on a polyactic acid base.
The discover of the new item was published in the journal ACS Sustainable Chemistry and shows that the film is not only comparable to plastic cling film, it performs many of the same tasks better.
“The main benchmark that we compare it to is PET, or polyethylene terephthalate, one of the most common petroleum-based materials in the transparent packaging you see in vending machines and soft drink bottles,” lead author J. Carson Meredith said in a statement. “Our material showed up to a 67 percent reduction in oxygen permeability over some forms of PET, which means it could in theory keep foods fresher longer.”
According to Professor Meredith, the team had been studying chitin for a separate project when they realized the fiber’s molecular properties could make it well suited for packaging.
The team was actually using the key ingredients to work on other projects when they made the exciting discovery. “We recognized that because the chitin nanofibers are positively charged, and the cellulose nanocrystals are negatively charged, they might work well as alternating layers in coatings because they would form a nice interface between them,” Meredith said.
“It’s difficult for a gas molecule to penetrate a solid crystal, because it has to disrupt the crystal structure,” Meredith said. “Something like PET on the other hand has a significant amount of amorphous or non-crystalline content, so there are more paths easier for a small gas molecule to find its way through.”
The new product is not yet ready for commercial use as the film still lets too much water vapor through but the researchers are extremely optimistic they will be able to make it work with further studies.