Chitin-based biodegradable polymer
Scientists at Harvard University’s Wyss Institute for Biologically Inspired Engineering have developed a new biopolymer that mimics the toughness, durability, and flexibility of natural insect cuticle. A biological composite with a structure akin to plywood, insect cuticle consists of layers of the polysaccharide polymer chitin and protein. The Wyss researchers extracted chitosan sugar from discarded shrimp shells and engineered a thin, transparent film with a strength equivalent to aluminum at only half the weight. The new Chitosan Bioplastic is biocompatible, biodegradable, easily molded into complex shapes, and inexpensive because of the widespread availability of shrimp waste. Because of these beneficial characteristics, the material is a potential replacement for conventional petroleum-based plastic in applications ranging from consumer products to medical uses.
Contact: Wyss Institute, Harvard University, Boston, MA, USA.
For more information, see Transmaterial Next: A Catalog of Materials that Redefine Our Future