IISc Bangalore students create low-cost substitute to single-use plastic
The team — under the supervision of professors Suryasarathi Bose and Kaushik Chatterjee from the Department of Materials Engineering — has filed a patent for the invention. This was created under IPTel, the intellectual property and technology licensing unit of IISc Bangalore and it took the team a year to create the polymer.
“We designed substitutes of plastic using agricultural stubble that could abate the air pollution crisis of North India resulting from stubble burning in neighbouring states,” said Indranil Chakraborty, a research associate at IISc who worked on the solution.
It is estimated that 3.3 million tonnes of plastic are produced each year in India alone, of which less than 9% are recycled. This has a serious impact on marine and terrestrial ecosystems.
The product is an affordable substitute to ‘single-use’ plastic, helping reduce plastic waste and deal with the problem of crop stubble. The polymer is made using crop stubble and an inexpensive and easily available non-edible oil that also contains cellulosic material derived from agricultural stubble.
“The bio-derived polyurethane from non-edible sources can replace conventional single-use plastics in various sectors,” Bose said. The polymer is biodegradable, non-hazardous, and leak-proof. Because the product is non-toxic, it is suitable for several consumer applications.
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“We hope to share the technology to various partners to develop products across different segments by tailoring the properties of the materials we have developed,” said Chatterjee.
So far, the team has already created products like bags, cutlery and tumblers that would normally be made from plastic. It is currently testing the biodegradability of the polymer. The team now intends to market the product and is looking at various applications.