Location: Plant Polymer Research
Project Number: 5010-41000-174-000-D
Project Type: In-House Appropriated
Start Date: May 19, 2015
End Date: May 18, 2020
The overall goal is to produce novel bio-based materials from agricultural commodities to increase the market demand and value of U.S. non-food agricultural products and by-products, as well as to reduce the environmental impact from the plastics industry. Objective 1. Enable, from a technological standpoint, the commercial production of new bio-based polymers, graft-copolymers, composites, and blends from polysaccharides. Sub-Objective 1A. Selectively modify polysaccharides to provide higher product value using state-of-the-art, chemical methods and physical techniques, such as microwave, ultrasound, supercritical fluids, and on-line monitoring to produce materials suitable for coatings, personal care, food, and pharmaceutical applications. Sub-Objective 1B. Synthesize and evaluate bio-based polymers, polymer blends and polymer composites for environmentally responsive plastics, controlled release materials, and composite materials using industrial, continuous production methods such as extrusion.
Environmental concerns over the production and disposal of polymeric materials have prioritized the creation of new bio-based materials from agricultural feedstocks. Sustainable processing technologies are also needed to replace industrial and consumer products made from petroleum based feedstock. This project focuses on making bio-based polymeric materials with useful applications from agricultural products such as starch and associated low cost corn processing and harvesting co-products. Modified biopolymers with new properties will be prepared using the latest technologies available. Specific objectives for this project include: 1) Develop novel carbohydrate-based materials, such as starches, celluloses, and chitosan, with novel structures and/or through the use of microwaves, autoclave heating, reactive extrusion, jet cooking, and other green chemical methods; and 2) Demonstrate that the biobased polymeric materials can be used in high-value applications such as composite materials, packaging, controlled release devices, and environmental responsiveness. As an example, starch-based copolymers with novel and unique properties will be compounded by reactive extrusion, characterized, and processed into films or fibers and then evaluated for targeted properties and specific applications. Overall, this research will lead to bio-based polymer products with new or improved properties, have lower cost, are more environmentally friendly, and thus more acceptable to consumer markets. It will also generate new bio-based technologies enabling new market opportunities for agricultural products while reducing the environmental footprint relative to polymeric materials based on non-renewable resources.