SBIR Phase II: BP 1 - Microwaveable Bioplastic Packaging
This Phase II SBIR research develops innovative nanotechnology to allow the use of bioplastics for food packaging. Polylactic acid (PLA) is an environmentally beneficial bioplastic made from renewable resources; however, the properties of PLA are limited. This makes it unsuited for use in microwaveable food packaging. In Phase I, university expertise resulting from earlier NSF funding was used to formulate a bioplastic with suitable properties, including cost. In Phase II, a viable manufacturing route towards food packing trays will be demonstrated at the pilot plant level working in close collaboration with a large industrial manufacturing partner. The broader impacts of this Phase II SBIR research will be manifold. The new bioplastics are quantitatively more environmentally benign that petroplastics. Bioplastics are made form renewable resources and therefore simultaneously help decrease dependence on foreign oil while providing environmental benefits. Using a domestic biomass resource provides a competitive advantage against low labor cost manufacturers like China helping to stem job losses in the plastics industries. Presently, polystyrene is largely used for tray applications and foamed with 3-5 weight percent hydrocarbons. PLA can be foamed with carbon dioxide so the new technology has the additional benefit of displacing at least 1 million pounds per year of the pollutant volatile organic carbons (VOCs).
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