Mérida, Yucatán, January, 2018.- With the vision of reducing the impact of plastic consumption on the environment, Soledad Cecilia Pech Cohuo, a student of the doctorate in Sciences of Polymeric Materials from Merida´s Scientific Research Center of Yucatán (CICY), is working on the generation of a biodegradable material that could replace conventional plastic films, a project that is being carried out with the advice of Dr. Jorge Alonso Uribe Calderón and Dr. Gonzalo Canché Escamilla, researcher and director of the Materials Unit respectively, with the cooperation of researchers from the Laval University of Quebec, the University of Guadalajara and the CICY.
Soledad Cohuo explained that this project aims to develop a biodegradable material made with poly (lactic acid) and cellulose nanocrystals for packaging applications; “Normally conventional bags are made with polymers that take hundreds of years to degrade, so this research is focused on making a biodegradable material with the same resistance as conventional plastic films” she said.
She also explained that this new material that is being developed at the CICY is made with poly (lactic acid), a polymer one hundred percent biodegradable, which has disadvantages at the time of processing, so it was proposed to add nanocrystals of cellulose (nanoscale particles ) in order to improve the handling of the material.
Pech Cohuo indicated that these cellulose nanocrystals are obtained from the waste of Agave tequilana, a plant used to produce tequila. The tequila industry that annually discards 4000 tons of this waste by incineration, in open dumps, or is buried.
“At CICY, this waste is used to obtain the cellulose nano-particles to incorporate them into a polymer and then manufacture a material with improved properties” added Cecilia Pech.
The doctoral student explained that in the laboratory of the Scientific and Technological Park of Yucatan this material is already produced, as part of a pilot program, but with this project it is proposed to generate biodegradable films for food packaging and plastic bags, in order to address the environmental problems and at the same time, taking advantage of the tequila industry waste material, that otherwise would be incinerated causing air pollution.
Soledad Cecilia Pech Cohuo had an outstanding participation during the National Congress of the Polymeric Society of Mexico and the IV Symposium on Advances in Polymer Science MACROMEX 2017, held recently, where she won the Best Project Award in the category “Macromolecules and Nanotechnology” with her scientific project.
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