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Research

High-performance bioplastics from seaweed

January 8, 2017
AlgaeIndustryMagazine.com

The researchers extracted fat and fatty acid from dried green algae. Then, an enzyme reaction of the fats created carboxylic acid, a material used to manufacture high-performance plastic. Image: Arirang News

Park Se-young, at Arirang News, writes about a Korean research team at Ewha Womans University, in Seoul, South Korea that has developed the technology to manufacture eco-friendly, high performance, bioplastics using seaweed. This technique is the first of its kind to use lipids from algae, according to the scientists.

To do it, the researchers extracted fat and fatty acid from dried green algae. Then, an enzyme reaction of the fats created carboxylic acid, a material used to manufacture high-performance plastic.

“The existing process requires high temperatures and pressure and uses strong oxidizers,” said Professor Park Jin-byung, of Ewha Womans University, “but we’ve reduced the level of energy consumption and formation of environmental pollutants.”

High-performance plastics are found in cars, airplanes and smartphones, and demand for them is growing. The global market for the material is estimated to grow from around 15 billion U.S. dollars this year to over 35 billion by 2026. On the downside, the material is manufactured at high temperatures using toxic materials, emitting lots of environmental pollutants in the process.

The new production process happens at room temperature and doesn’t require any exceptional pressure conditions, so the new material reduces the number of harmful bi-products emitted during the manufacturing process.

Going forward, the research team plans to develop the technology for mass production of the material and take its invention to the market.

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