From liquid laundry detergent packaged in cardboard to compostable plastic cups, consumer products these days are increasingly touting their sustainable and renewable origins.
Now researchers at Georgia Institute of Technology have created a material derived from crab shells and tree fibers that has the potential to replace the flexible plastic packaging used to keep food fresh.
The new material, which is described July 23 in the journal ACS Sustainable Chemistry and Engineering, is made by spraying multiple layers of chitin from crab shells and cellulose from trees to form a flexible film similar to plastic packaging film.
“The main benchmark that we compare it to is PET, or polyethylene terephthalate, one of the most common petroleum-based materials in the transparent packaging you see in vending machines and soft drink bottles,” said J. Carson Meredith, a professor in Georgia Tech’s School of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering. “Our material showed up to a 67 percent reduction in oxygen permeability over some forms of PET, which means it could in theory keep foods fresher longer.”