Plastic made of potato starch is a promising material for packaging, which is a big new application for starch plastics. This is shown in Åsa Rindlav-Westling’s doctoral dissertation, which was carried out in Paul Gatenholm’s research team in polymer technology at Chalmers University of Technology, Sweden.
Our huge quantities of refuse could be reduced and a greater proportion than today could be composted. Combustion of materials from oil, such as conventional plastics and fossil fuels, raise levels of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, increasing the risk of the greenhouse effect and environmental problems. Starch polymers, extracted from potatoes, corn, and wheat, for instance, can be used as raw materials for biologically degradable plastics. Today the EU has a surplus of agricultural products, and a certain share could be used as raw materials in the production of plastics. At present disposable eating utensils and packaging chips are made from starch. A major new field of use for plastic films made of starch could be packaging. Starch films have excellent oxygen-barrier properties and in some cases can replace aluminium when it comes to protecting oxygen-sensitive foods.
Potato starch is produced from carbon dioxide and water with the help of energy from the sun when potatoes grow. Åsa Rindlav-Westling’s doctoral work deals with plastic films made from potato starch. Her work has involved studying starch-film structure, which affects its properties. By varying the conditions under which the film is produced, she has been able to control the structure. Slow formation of film results in starches that exhibit well-ordered films, and crystallinity is high. Film properties like strength and elasticity are affected by crystallinity.
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