Incredible material made from CRAB SHELLS and tree fibres could soon replace plastic packaging

Scientists have developed a new material made from crab shells and tree fibres, that they believe could soon replace plastic packaging .

The flexible material was created by researchers from Georgia Institute of Technology , and is made by spraying multiple layers of chitin from crab shells and cellulose from trees.

Dr J. Carson Meredith, who led the study, said: “The main benchmark that we compare it to is PET, or polyethylene terephthalate, one of the most common petroleum-based materials in the transparent packaging you see in vending machines and soft drink bottles.

“Our material showed up to a 67 percent reduction in oxygen permeability over some forms of PET, which means it could in theory keep foods fresher longer.”

The flexible material is made by spraying multiple layers of chitin from crab shells and cellulose from trees

Cellulose is the most common natural biopolymer on Earth, followed by chitin, which can be found in shellfish, insects and fungi.

To create the film, the researchers suspended cellulose cellulose and chitin nanofibers in water and sprayed them onto a surface in alternating layers.

The resulting material is flexible, strong, transparent – and most importantly, compostable .

One of the key benefits of the material is the fact that it prevents oxygen passing through – which is vital if it’s to be used as food packaging

Dr Meredith said: “We had been looking at cellulose nanocrystals for several years and exploring ways to improve those for use in lightweight composites as well as food packaging, because of the huge market opportunity for renewable and compostable packaging, and how important food packaging overall is going to be as the population continues to grow.”

One of the key benefits of the material is the fact that it prevents oxygen passing through – which is vital if it’s to be used as food packaging.

Crab
Crab

Dr Meredith explained: “It’s difficult for a gas molecule to penetrate a solid crystal, because it has to disrupt the crystal structure.

“Something like PET on the other hand has a significant amount of amorphous or non-crystalline content, so there are more paths easier for a small gas molecule to find its way through.”

However, more work needs to be done before the material can be used – including lowering costs.

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