Researchers at McGill University and Montreal lab they have modified a substance found in crustacean shells called chitin into a polymer called chitosan.
The breakthrough involves making chitosan with a longer chain. The longer the molecular chain, the more robust the material.
The researchers have primarily been working with shrimp shells, which they grind into a fine powder. Their hope is that this new material will one day replace petroleum-based plastics.
Audrey Moores, associate professor of chemistry at McGill University said
“Globally, every year we generate six to eight million tonnes of these kinds of crustaceous waste and we’re not using it for anything, really. The discovery has many potential applications, such as straws, disposable cutlery, single-use plastic bags, food packaging and even for 3D printing. But we’re also looking into higher end applications like biomedical applications.”
The team patented the process and are now working to make the substance more malleable before attempting to get it to market.
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