Environment

Genius: A Bioplastic That Acts Like Soil And Breaks Down Within 2 Weeks

Wow! Who knew shrimp shells could save the planet?

The Wyss Institute for Biologically Inspired Engineering at Harvard University uses Nature’s design principles to develop bio-inspired materials and devices that will transform medicine and create a more sustainable world.

Researchers have developed a method to carry out large-scale manufacturing of everyday objects — from cell phones to food containers and toys — using a fully degradable bioplastic isolated from shrimp shells. The objects exhibit many of the same properties as those created with synthetic plastics, but without the environmental threat. It also trumps most bioplastics on the market today in posing absolutely no threat to trees or competition with the food supply.

The Wyss Institute team developed its bioplastic from chitosan, a form of chitin, which is a powerful player in the world of natural polymers and the second most abundant organic material on Earth. The team developed a new way to process the material so that it can be used to fabricate large, 3D objects with complex shapes using traditional casting or injection molding manufacturing techniques. What’s more, their chitosan bioplastic breaks down when returned to the environment within about two weeks, and it releases rich nutrients that efficiently support plant growth.

Find out more about Wyss Institute projects here.

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