Columbus, Ohio – Researchers at the Ohio State University have combined natural rubber with bioplastics to develop a “tough and flexible” biodegradable material.
The biocompound is “a much stronger replacement for plastic,” said the university in a report published in the journal Polymer in March.
The study involved melting rubber into plant-derived poly(3-hydroxybutyrate-co-3-hydroxyvalerate) (PHBV) along with an organic peroxide and trimethylolpropane triacrylate.
Previous attempts at this combination failed because the softness of the rubber meant material-strength fell by as much as 80%, said lead author Xiaoying Zhao.
The new process reduces the strength of the PHBV thermoplastic by only 30%, said Zhao, a postdoctoral researcher in food science and technology.
Already “capturing the interest of companies”, the product is 75% tougher and 100% more flexible than PHBV, the university added.