Biodegradable foam plastic substitute made from milk protein and clay

Biodegradable foam plastic substitute made from milk protein and clay
Lighter-than-a-feather, this new material, made from milk protein and clay, could become a new bio-degradable substitute for traditional foamed plastics. Credit: Tassawuth Pojanavaraphan

Amid ongoing concern about plastic waste accumulating in municipal landfills, and reliance on imported oil to make plastics, scientists are reporting development of a new ultra-light biodegradable foam plastic material made from two unlikely ingredients: The protein in milk and ordinary clay.

The new substance could be used in furniture cushions, insulation, packaging, and other products, they report in the ACS’ Biomacromolecules, a monthly journal.

David Schiraldi and colleagues explain that 80 percent of the in cow is a substance called casein, which already finds uses in making adhesives and paper coatings. But casein is not very strong, and can wash it away. To beef up casein, and boost its resistance to water, the scientists blended in a small amount of clay and a reactive molecule called glyceraldehyde, which links casein’s protein molecules together.

The scientists freeze-dried the resulting mixture, removing the water to produce a spongy aerogel, one of a family of substances so light and airy that they have been termed “solid smoke.” To make the gossamer stronger, they cured it in an oven, then tested its sturdiness. They concluded that it is strong enough for commercial uses, and biodegradable, with almost a third of the material breaking down within 30 days.


Explore further

Engineers hit pay dirt with clay mixture

More information: “Development of Biodegradable Foamlike Materials Based on Casein and Sodium Montmorillonite Clay”, Biomacromolecules.
Citation: Biodegradable foam plastic substitute made from milk protein and clay (2010, October 20) retrieved 8 December 2019 from https://phys.org/news/2010-10-biodegradable-foam-plastic-substitute-protein.html
This document is subject to copyright. Apart from any fair dealing for the purpose of private study or research, no part may be reproduced without the written permission. The content is provided for information purposes only.
0 shares

Feedback to editors

User comments