Researcher turns switchgrass into bioplastics

25
Researcher turns switchgrass into bioplastics


Researcher turns switchgrass into bioplastics
Credit: Resources, Conservation and Recycling (2023). DOI: 10.1016/j.resconrec.2023.107322

Plastic, made in the traditional petroleum-based method, has served its purpose. The near-perfect packaging material has been instrumental in transforming the world’s food supply and can be found in nearly every sector of daily life.

But as humans have become increasingly reliant on plastic, serious environmental issues, like the Great Pacific Garbage Patch, have emerged. A natural, plastic-like alternative is sorely needed and, according to South Dakota State University researcher Srinivas Janaswamy, a sustainable remedy is within reach.

Bioplastics—plastic-like films that have the same qualities as petroleum-based plastic but are made from natural materials—are our best chance at chipping away at the ongoing plastic waste crisis, said Janaswamy, associate professor in SDSU’s Department of Dairy and Food Science.

“Plastics are used for convenience in every household, but several are not appropriately recycled and are dumped everywhere around the globe,” Janaswamy said. “Plastics take over 700 years to degrade and form an everlasting threat to our biosphere and ecosystem.”

Janaswamy’s research is on the leading edge of bioplastic development. Over the past few years, he has demonstrated how biodegradable films can be successfully created from a variety of agriculture byproducts, including avocado peels and spent coffee grounds.

A new study from Janaswamy’s lab has demonstrated how a transparent and strong biodegradable film can be derived from switchgrass (Pancium virgatum), a perennial prairie tallgrass native to North America. The article, published in the journal Resources, Conservation and Recycling, is titled “Biodegradable films from the lignocellulosic residue of switchgrass.”

Researcher turning switchgrass into bioplastics
Switchgrass is a native prairie grass to South Dakota and grows abundantly in a variety of climates. Now, South Dakota State University researcher Srinivas Janaswamy has demonstrated how switchgrass can be utilized to create biodegradable films. Credit: SDSU Extension

In the United States, switchgrass grows abundantly and in a variety of different climates, making it a valuable resource for soil conservation, ornamental grass, heat production and biofuels. Switchgrass is also composed of roughly 58% lignocellulosic material, making it an ideal material for the development of plastic-replacing products.

To make the films, Janaswamy and his research team—which includes Sajal Bhattarai, an SDSU grad and a graduate research assistant at Purdue University—first extracted lignocellulosic material, the most abundant renewable biomass on Earth, from milled switchgrass. Lignocellulosic material, or plant dry matter, is composed of cellulose, hemicellulose and lignin.

After the material was extracted, a filtration, bleaching, washing and drying process resulted in a white residue that was then used to create the films. Once fully dried, the team assessed the film’s qualities.

Results showed the films to be transparent, high in tensile strength and completely biodegradable within 40 days at 30% soil moisture. The last characteristic—biodegradation—is crucial in the development of bioplastics as the primary challenge with petroleum-based plastics is their inability to degrade. For example, a plastic bottle will take more than 700 years to naturally degrade in soil. Bioplastics, ideally, might biodegrade in a fraction of that time, greatly reducing the amount of plastic waste in the environment.

“This research successfully demonstrates biodegradable, biocompatible, strong and transparent films can be made from the lignocellulosic residue of switchgrass,” Janaswamy said. “The film possesses high tensile strength, low water vapor permeability and good biodegradability.”

The one downside of the films is relatively low elongation, especially in comparison to synthetic films. Janaswamy attributes this to the structural nature of the rigid lignocellulose network structure. Plasticizers, liquids added to plastics to soften them, generally improve film flexibility and elongation. However, plasticizers were not tested in this particular study. Janaswamy notes this will be an area of interest for future research.

Outside of eliminating plastic waste and subsequently helping the environment, this work can help farmers in the region generate extra income, as the materials utilized for bioplastics are often either underused or not used at all.

“Our planet needs sustainable, economical and environmentally friendly solutions to address the repercussions of plastics,” Janaswamy said. “The strong and biodegradable switchgrass residue-based films open up a new window of opportunities to design and develop reusable, recyclable and compostable films from underutilized, inexpensive and abundant agricultural biomass, contributing to the circular rural economy in a friendly and sustainable manner.”

More information:
Sajal Bhattarai et al, Biodegradable films from the lignocellulosic residue of switchgrass, Resources, Conservation and Recycling (2023). DOI: 10.1016/j.resconrec.2023.107322

Citation:
Researcher turns switchgrass into bioplastics (2023, December 6)
retrieved 6 December 2023
from https://phys.org/news/2023-12-switchgrass-bioplastics.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.




Disasters Expo USA, is proud to be supported by Inergency for their next upcoming edition on March 6th & 7th 2024!

The leading event mitigating the world’s most costly disasters is returning to the Miami Beach

Convention Center and we want you to join us at the industry’s central platform for emergency management professionals.
Disasters Expo USA is proud to provide a central platform for the industry to connect and
engage with the industry’s leading professionals to better prepare, protect, prevent, respond
and recover from the disasters of today.
Hosting a dedicated platform for the convergence of disaster risk reduction, the keynote line up for Disasters Expo USA 2024 will provide an insight into successful case studies and
programs to accurately prepare for disasters. Featuring sessions from the likes of The Federal Emergency Management Agency,
NASA, The National Aeronautics and Space Administration, NOAA, The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, TSA and several more this event is certainly providing you with the knowledge
required to prepare, respond and recover to disasters.
With over 50 hours worth of unmissable content, exciting new features such as their Disaster
Resilience Roundtable, Emergency Response Live, an Immersive Hurricane Simulation and
much more over just two days, you are guaranteed to gain an all-encompassing insight into
the industry to tackle the challenges of disasters.
By uniting global disaster risk management experts, well experienced emergency
responders and the leading innovators from the world, the event is the hub of the solutions
that provide attendees with tools that they can use to protect the communities and mitigate
the damage from disasters.
Tickets for the event are $119, but we have been given the promo code: HUGI100 that will
enable you to attend the event for FREE!

So don’t miss out and register today: https://shorturl.at/aikrW

And in case you missed it, here is our ultimate road trip playlist is the perfect mix of podcasts, and hidden gems that will keep you energized for the entire journey

-

This website uses cookies to improve your experience. We'll assume you're ok with this, but you can opt-out if you wish. Accept Read More