Sunday August 19, 2018
Home India Scientists de...

Scientists develop eco-friendly material, possible substitute for plastics

0
//
115
Republish
Reprint

n4 seaweed 2

By Sahana Ghosh

Kolkata: Indian scientists have created an environmentally-friendly material from renewable natural marine resources that could eventually replace the fossil fuel-derived plastics commonly used in a variety of applications.

The eco-friendly substance, developed from seaweed extracts, has the potential to substitute plastic in applications like packaging material and ropes and thereby reduce dependency on fossil fuels for production of plastic products, the scientists say.

“The building blocks of plastics and synthetics, we use every day are mostly derived from fossil oils or crude oils,” Pushpito Ghosh, a professor of chemical engineering at Mumbai’s Institute of Chemical Technology, told IANS on the phone.

“Using materials derived from renewable natural sources such as seaweeds on a large scale, could help reduce dependency on finite fossil fuel reserves,” said the former director of the CSIR-Central Salt and Marine Chemicals Research Institute and one of the study authors.

He was the director when the research began.

The researchers used extracts of three seaweed species cultivated in India and treated it with a common industrial chemical called vinyl acetate to make it water repellent.

The intention was to fabricate ropes from this partly-synthetic and partly-natural substance and replace the nylon ropes used in seaweed farming in marine waters.

But there is more to the achievement than just biodegradable ropes.

Plastic bottles and wrapping materials continue to contribute to the pollution.
Plastic bottles and wrapping materials continue to contribute to the pollution.

“It could replace plastic in many ways, such as in packaging material, ropes for drying clothes, bag handles and other home decor items when produced on a large scale,” Ramavatar Meena, a senior scientist at the institute, told IANS on the phone.

Seaweeds, which are marine plants, are known as super foods for their high nutrient content.

A source of industrially important gums and gelling or thickening agents, they grow naturally along the coast of Gujarat, Tamil Nadu, Kerala, Maharashtra and the Andaman and Nicobar Islands.

“The rope made from seaweed extracts lasted over 45 days in the field and over six months in sea water under laboratory conditions. On the other hand, it degraded on being buried in the soil,” Meena said.

Although the vinyl acetate constituent of the novel material is biodegradable to a certain extent, Ghosh said the next challenge is to ramp up the level of natural content (seaweed extracts) and further improve its properties.

July 3 is International Plastic Bag Free Day
July 3 is International Plastic Bag Free Day

Making the raw material cost-effective is another important target of the team, he said.

“Plastic is produced on a massive scale. To be competent, we are looking at ways to cultivate the seaweed on a grander scale,” Ghosh added.

The study is published online in RSC Advances journal. The other members of the team are J.P. Chaudhary, Dharmesh Chejara and K. Eswaran.

(IANS)

Click here for reuse options!
Copyright 2015 NewsGram

Next Story

Researchers Have Successfully Created Artificial Placenta

Initial tests have already shown that the artificial placenta on the chip does in fact behave in a similar way to a natural placenta: small molecules are allowed to pass through, while large ones are held back, the researchers noted.

0
Artificial placenta created in lab using 3D printing. Flickr
Artificial placenta created in lab using 3D printing. Flickr

Using a high-resolution 3D printing process, Austrian researchers have succeeded in creating an artificial placenta barrier on a chip, a development that can be used to investigate important aspects of nutrient transport from the mother to the foetus.

The placenta ensures the exchange of important substances between the mother and her unborn child, whilst simultaneously blocking other substances from passing through.

“The transport of substances through biological membranes plays an important role in various areas of medicine,” said Aleksandr Ovsianikov, professor at the TU Wien university in Vienna.

“These include the blood-brain barrier, ingestion of food in the stomach and intestine, and also the placenta.”

This can help provide clarity on how the exchange of glucose between mother and child takes place. Wikimedia Commons
This can help provide clarity on how the exchange of glucose between mother and child takes place. Wikimedia Commons

Studies have shown that diseases such as diabetes and high blood pressure in the mother can affect the transport of substances to the foetus. Until now however, it has been almost impossible to investigate the way in which the many parameters involved interact in such cases.

Using the 3D printing made it possible to produce customised hydrogel membranes directly within microfluidic chips, which are then populated with placenta cells.

This can help provide clarity on how the exchange of glucose between mother and child takes place, the researchers said.

The novel chip consists of two areas — one represents the foetus, the other the mother. Using a specially developed femtosecond laser-based 3D printing process helped produce a partition between them — the artificial placenta membrane.

The high-resolution 3D printing involved a hydrogel with good biocompatibility.

Also Read: Obesity During Pregnancy May up Kid’s Risk of Epilepsy

“Based on the model of the natural placenta, we produce a surface with small, curved villi. The placenta cells can then colonise it, creating a barrier very similar to the natural placenta,” Ovsianikov explained.

Initial tests have already shown that the artificial placenta on the chip does in fact behave in a similar way to a natural placenta: small molecules are allowed to pass through, while large ones are held back, the researchers noted. (IANS)