KTH is now customising new materials to replace plastics
KTH occupies a unique position in the research and development of new materials that have the potential to replace today's plastic materials in the near future. By harnessing the power of current knowledge, within five years it should be possible to make completely bio-based, biodegradable/recyclable food packaging a reality – without sacrificing the performance of the material.
So far, attempts to replace oil-based plastics have focused on emulating the properties of plastics through a complex combination of materials and processes. In a new project, KTH researchers have turned this idea on its head, instead opting to use the unique properties of biomass as their starting point. The individual chemical properties of biomass can be used to customise materials that possess the right properties to allow them to replace today’s plastic materials on a broad front.
A more innovative approach
KTH's approach is much more challenging, but also far more innovative. Moreover, research at KTH already encompasses several of the individual competences necessary for the success of this plan. The entire chain of deep chemical knowledge is in place, allowing beneficial interactions with the forest industry and the packaging industry, which are seeking new applications for their products.
Other attempts to use biomass as a raw material have resulted in complex chemical processes that are costly to scale up industrially and which do not offer good material resource efficiency. Innovative shortcuts are necessary in order to realise the sustainable production of the future. These shortcuts demand the extensive expertise and breadth of knowledge of bio-based materials that make KTH unique.
Therefore, a new project is now being launched to create a new and sustainable packaging based on bio-based materials. There is an urgent need for eco-efficient and biodegradable/recyclable disposable packaging, but the technology necessary to create it is currently only available in the laboratory. With the help of sufficient resources, KTH hopes to achieve its goal within five years. KTH has a unique opportunity, wherein the coordination of current knowledge and competence may lead to a prominent position in the manufacture of the materials of tomorrow.
Minna Hakkarainen, Professor of Polymer Technology
Mikael Hedenqvist, Professor of Polymer Materials
Eva Malmström Jonsson, Professor of Surface Treatment Technology
All are located at the Department of Fibre and Polymer Technology.