Skip to main content
ARS Home » Midwest Area » Peoria, Illinois » National Center for Agricultural Utilization Research » Plant Polymer Research » Research » Research Project #438158

Research Project: Circular Bio-economy via Value-Added Biobased Products

Location: Plant Polymer Research

Project Number: 5010-41000-188-00-D
Project Type: In-House Appropriated

Start Date: Sep 10, 2020
End Date: Sep 9, 2025

Objective:
Objective 1. Enable new food-contact active packaging and coating materials through selective chemical modification and novel processing techniques. The focus of Objective 1 is to design new food packaging materials from biobased and renewable-sourced polymers using novel physical processes and chemical modifications. The products will protect and enhance food products, eliminate or reduce pathogens, address antimicrobial resistance, extend shelf-life, and reduce food waste and food poisoning incidents. Objective 2. Enable commercialization of new agro-based value-added green products and processes. Objective 2 utilizes renewably sourced polymers, polymer blends, modified polysaccharides, and bio-oils to provide high-value products using state-of-the-art chemical and physical techniques, such as microwave processing, reaction chemistry and separations in ionic liquid and deep eutectic solvents, reactive extrusion, electrospinning, electrospraying, and nanotechnology. Through Objective 2, we envision the development of new or improved biopolymers made from agro-based raw materials targeted for plastic replacements (biodegradable polymers and plasticizers), adhesives (melt and pressure sensitive), personal care and cosmetics (dispersants, emulsifiers, bioactive agents), biobased phase change materials for thermal insulation, energy storage and conservation, and specialty materials (coatings, thickeners, adsorbents, metal ion sequestrants, flocculants, and catalyst supports). Moreover, this project will yield modified industrial and commercial processing methods that will increase the efficiency and lower the cost for replacement of similar non-renewable polymer products. Polymeric materials from renewable resources will provide environmental benefits over materials currently in use. New fundamental knowledge of the interactions of plant-based carbohydrates with additives and polymers will provide the basis for a rational design of novel agro-based materials with targeted properties. See Appendix 1A for a flow diagram of the project.

Approach:
The main outcome of this project is to develop environmentally friendly green processes and products by adopting circular bio-economy strategies. The first objective is to design new food packaging materials from biobased and renewable-sourced polymers using novel physical processes and chemical modifications. These packaging materials are intended to protect and enhance food products, promote food safety, eliminate or reduce pathogens, extend shelf-life, address antimicrobial resistance, reduce food waste and lead to greater availability of food to human, animal, and plant life. Active packaging materials will reduce the number of pathogens in food and food products through controlled release mechanisms. The second objective utilizes agro-based polymers, polymer blends, modified polysaccharides, and triglycerides (including sorghum and hemp oils) to develop high-value products using state-of-the-art chemical and physical techniques, such as microwave processing, ionic liquid and deep eutectic solvent reactions and separations, reactive extrusion, electrospinning, electrospraying, and nanotechnology. Overall, the project will develop agro-based polymer products that have new or improved properties at lower cost, have reduced environmental footprint, and are responsive to evolving consumer markets. The project will also generate innovative technologies, thereby enabling new market opportunities for agricultural products to replace polymeric materials based on non-renewable resources. This research will widen the application boundaries of agriculture, thereby increasing the demand, value, and utility of agricultural commodities.