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07-25-2016

Orange Shell, Green Core

Bioplastic PLimC from Orange Peels and Carbon Dioxide

Orange peels and carbon dioxide – that is all it took for researchers from Bayreuth University to make their new bioplastic. In addition to being organic, PLimC is said to feature the same properties as conventional plastics in terms of performance and variety of applications.

One of the basic ingredients of the bioplastic PLimC is orange peels. Scientists claim that this is the first time a wide range of high-performance plastics was produced on the basis of renewable raw materials, exclusively (© Fotolia.com/Gerhard Zwerger-Schoner)

One of the basic ingredients of the bioplastic PLimC is orange peels. Scientists claim that this is the first time a wide range of high-performance plastics was produced on the basis of renewable raw materials, exclusively (© Fotolia.com/Gerhard Zwerger-Schoner)

Simply take some orange peels, extract the natural limonene substance, make it oxidize and link to carbon dioxide (CO2 ): And there you are, having a biobased plastic at hand which you can use for environmentally-friendly functional materials to serve for the widest variety of industrial applications. And all this at an affordable price. „PLimC“ is the name of this green allrounder material that was synthesized by scientists at the University of Bayreuth. According to University information, it is the first material to enable production of a wide variety of high-performance plastics on the basis of renewable resources, exclusively.

PLimC is a type of polycarbonate (PC) obtained from a synthesis of limonene oxide and carbon dioxide. As a result, users can be sure the material contains no harmful bisphenol A, other than conventional PC. In addition, the new biobased plastic has a number of features making it attractive for industrial applications. “We used some concrete examples to show that PLimC is excellently suited as a basic material for versatile plastics with very specific properties. This is because the PLimC has a double bond that can be used for further syntheses, in a well-targeted way”, explains head of the research team Prof. Dr. Andreas Greiner.

The team in a laboratory of the Bayreuth polymer research unit: (from left) Prof. Dr. Seema Agarwal, Oliver Hauenstein ( M.Sc.) and Prof. Dr. Andreas Greiner (© Christian Wissler)

The team in a laboratory of the Bayreuth polymer research unit: (from left) Prof. Dr. Seema Agarwal, Oliver Hauenstein ( M.Sc.) and Prof. Dr. Andreas Greiner (© Christian Wissler)

Versatile Applications

One example of these new PLimC-based plastics are anti-microbial polymers, which are able to, e.g., prevent E. coli bacteria adsorption. Used in containers for medical treatment and care, they can significantly diminish the risk of infection, not least in hospitals. They may also serve to produce plastics implants, which have to include as little risk of inflammation as possible.

Another example are seawater soluble polymers. When in contact with salt water, they dissolve into substances that are ecologically harmless and decompose in a final stage. PLimC also forms the basis for hydrophilic polymers. The benefit included in these polymers is their high interaction with water, which means microorganisms can degrade them relatively fast.

Environmentally Friendly and Suitable for the Highest Requirements

Structural formula of the biobased plastic PLimC (© Universität Bayreuth/Oliver Hauenstein)

Structural formula of the biobased plastic PLimC (© Universität Bayreuth/Oliver Hauenstein)

“If we want to develop specific new materials on the basis of PLimC, the sky is almost the limit” states Oliver Hauenstein. He explains that PLimC production is easy to handle and extremely friendly to the environment. Manufacturers can reuse peels from orange juice producers, and recycle the greenhouse gas CO2 before it reaches the atmosphere. “What is more, the various plastics that can be synthesized on the basis of PLimC without any major technical or financial effort are ecologically harmless and can be recycled.”

Prof. Greiner adds: “Plastics industry is frequently suspicious of reaching their technological progress only with materials that are questionable in terms of ecology. This statement is not quite correct, of course.” He stresses that the findings of the research team show that up-to-date plastics are environmentally friendly and meet the highest requirements of technology, at the same time.

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