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A fully bio-based starch plastic has been developed by researchers at the South China University of Technology

by | Sep 20, 2023

Starch is a material which is in high demand for the production of bio-plastics due to it being easily accessible and available in abundance, it also has a renewable nature. The issue with starch is that it is not an ideal material because of its brittleness, hydrophilicity and thermal properties. These issues holding starch back is what inspired the researchers at the state key laboratory of Pulp and Paper engineering at the South China University of Technology, to develop a fully bio-based starch plastic with many benefits. These benefits include superior flexibility, waterproof capability, thermal processability and self-adaptability.

Xiaoqian Zhang, one of the researchers involved in this project, explained the manufacturing process for the starch bio-plastic, “In the production of the fully bio-based starch plastic, dialdehyde starch was subjected to a mild Schiff base reaction with a plant oil-based diamine. This reaction resulted in the formation of dynamic imine bonds, which exhibited the ability to be cleaved and reformed reversibly under heat stimulation. Consequently, the starch plastic demonstrated remarkable thermal processability.”

Zhang continued, explaining why the new plastic is so flexible. Native starch exhibits great stiffness due to the strong hydrogen bonding between its molecular chains, resulting in challenges during thermal processing. A covalent adaptable network was constructed to effectively weaken the hydrogen bonding and improve the stress relaxation of starch chains. Additionally, the presence of long aliphatic chains in the diamine enhanced the steric hinderance of the starch molecule chains, leading to improved flexibility and hydrophobicity of the starch plastic.”

These properties of the bio-plastic already shows how it is a much better product than everyday starch for plastic production. However on top of the benefits the product already has, the bio-based starch plastic also demonstrates self-healing abilities. Through a simple heat-pressing treatment, the bio-plastic can heal anything from a scratch to a large damage, making it a much more eco-friendly and sustainable product. The benefits of this new bio-plastic make it highly desirable as a replacement for normal plastic as it is more eco-friendly, sustainable product which is made from fully bio-based materials. This is an excellent breakthrough and will be a brilliant addition to moving towards a plastic waste free world.

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