Recipe for antibacterial plastic: Plastic plus egg whites

March 27, 2015 by Cal Powell
Alex Jones, a doctoral student in the department of textiles, merchandising and interiors at the University of Georgia, is studying the antibacterial properties of bioplastics. He's found that albumin, a protein found in egg whites, looks the most promising. Credit: Cal Powell/UGA

Bioplastics made from protein sources such as albumin and whey have shown significant antibacterial properties, findings that could eventually lead to their use in plastics used in medical applications such as wound healing dressings, sutures, catheter tubes and drug delivery, according to a recent study by the University of Georgia College of Family and Consumer Sciences.

The bioplastic materials could also be used for .

Researchers tested three nontraditional bioplastic materials—, whey and soy proteins—as alternatives to conventional that pose risks of contamination.

In particular, albumin, a protein found in egg whites, demonstrated tremendous when blended with a traditional plasticizer such as glycerol.

"It was found that it had complete inhibition, as in no would grow on the plastic once applied," said Alex Jones, a doctoral student in the department of textiles, merchandising and interiors. "The bacteria wouldn't be able to live on it."

The study appears in the online version of the Journal of Applied Polymer Science.

One of the researchers' aims is to find ways to reduce the amount of petroleum used in traditional plastic production; another is to find a fully biodegradable bioplastic.

The albumin-glycerol blended bioplastic met both standards, Jones said.

"If you put it in a landfill, this being pure protein, it will break down," he said. "If you put it in soil for a month—at most two months—these plastics will disappear."

The next step in the research involves a deeper analysis of the albumin-based bioplastic's potential for use in the biomedical and food packaging fields.

As noted in the study, 4.5 hospital admissions out of every 100 in the U.S. in 2002 resulted in a hospital-acquired infection. In addition to the risk of contamination in hospitals, as a result of traditional plastics is a notable risk.

Researchers are encouraged by the antimicrobial properties of albumin-based bioplastics that could potentially reduce these risks through drug elution—loading the bioplastic with either drugs or food preservatives that can kill bacteria or prevent it from spreading.

Explore further: Waste cooking oil makes bioplastics cheaper

More information: The study, "Protein-based bioplastics and their antibacterial potential," is available online at onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1002/app.41931/abstract

Related Stories

Waste cooking oil makes bioplastics cheaper

September 3, 2012

"Bioplastics" that are naturally synthesized by microbes could be made commercially viable by using waste cooking oil as a starting material. This would reduce environmental contamination and also give high-quality plastics ...

Video: Using microbes to generate bioplastics

March 12, 2014

European scientists are experimenting with bacteria and algae and turn them into bioplastic factories. Their vision: these microorganisms should produce a large portion of our plastic materials without any petroleum.

Team creates bioplastic made from shrimp shells

May 6, 2014

(Phys.org) —For many people, "plastic" is a one-word analog for environmental disaster. It is made from precious petroleum, after all, and once discarded in landfills and oceans, it takes centuries to degrade.

Mazda develops bioplastic for exterior car parts

December 10, 2014

Mazda Motor Corporation has developed a bio-based engineering plastic suitable for exterior automobile parts. The new bioplastic will help Mazda decrease its environmental impact. Made from plant-derived materials, it curbs ...

That's a bioplastic wrap

December 15, 2014

Bioplastics take on traditional petrochemical plastics in food packaging, with some challenges.

Recommended for you

New method developed for producing some metals

August 25, 2016

The MIT researchers were trying to develop a new battery, but it didn't work out that way. Instead, thanks to an unexpected finding in their lab tests, what they discovered was a whole new way of producing the metal antimony—and ...

Isolation of Fe(IV) decamethylferrocene salts

August 29, 2016

(Phys.org)—Ferrocene is the model compound that students often learn when they are introduced to organometallic chemistry. It has an iron center that is coordinated to the π electrons in two cyclopentadienyl rings. (C5H5- ...

Force triggers gene expression by stretching chromatin

August 26, 2016

How genes in our DNA are expressed into traits within a cell is a complicated mystery with many players, the main suspects being chemical. However, a new study by University of Illinois researchers and collaborators in China ...

New electrical energy storage material shows its power

August 24, 2016

A powerful new material developed by Northwestern University chemist William Dichtel and his research team could one day speed up the charging process of electric cars and help increase their driving range.

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.