Taiwan-based Industrial Technology Research Institute (ITRI) has created a heat-resistant, food-grade bioplastic material.
For the past eight years, the researchers at ITRI have worked to produce a material that can hold up to higher temperatures, and it looks like their work has paid off.
According to an article on 3Ders, the material, a polylactic acid (PLA), is biodegradable and derived from natural, renewable sources such as corn and sugarcane. Most importantly, it is heat resistant – up to 100 degrees Celsius. PLA is commonly used in 3D printing, but this material tends deform at 50 degrees.
The ITRI achieved this standard through the new development of a non-toxic nucleating agent that accelerates the crystallization process in the PLA. The crystallization process allows the PLA materials to become heat-resistant.
This heat-resistant PLA is not only suitable for use in tableware and food safe containers, the material could also have a promising future in the non-food related components, such as electronics, as well as 3D printing applications.
Statistics from ITRI’s Industrial Economics and Knowledge Center show that around 120,000 metric tons of PLA were consumed globally in 2010. Most of the consumption was in Western Europe and North America.
With the rising prices in oil, the ITRI has been focused on renewable resources which stand up to the requirements. This new finding may possibly help to contribute to a greener future, as the PLA comes from renewable, biodegradable resources.