Shellworks Converts Lobster Shell Remains Into Biodegradable Bioplastics

Plastic waste is growing exponentially, further aggravating the contemporary environmental crisis. Some students have created a biodegradable and recyclable bioplastic from lobster shells.

Ed Jones, Insiya Jafferjee, Amir Afshar and Andrea Edwards are part of the design school of the Royal College of Art and Imperial College.

After a research process, they managed to design a food packaging material whose raw material is the remains of lobster shells.

The ingredient of the material is chitin, a very abundant biopolymer in the world that is found naturally in the exoskeletons of crustaceans and insects. It is the main ingredient in the shells of crustaceans, cuticles of insects and wings of butterflies.

The project, called Shellworks, allowed students to transform crustacean shells into a paper-like material that could act as a substitute for single-use plastics in certain circumstances.

Advantages of Chitin.

  • It has a resistance equivalent to aluminum only half its weight.
  • Cheap raw material due to the abundance of lobster waste.
  • It is a potential substitute for conventional petroleum-based plastic. It can be used in consumer products and medical equipment.

Chitin must be chemically extracted from its source before it can be made into a practical material. The chitosan is the commercial version of chitin and is usually very expensive.

The designers created three machines to extract the biopolymer, in order to reduce costs and even baptized them with their respective names. The functions of each of them are:

Dippy.

It is a hot dip moulder that makes it easy to make 3D shapes. The arms are dipped in and out of the chitosan solution to make 3D shapes.

Vaccy.

It is a vacuum molder that is heated by steam for the manufacture of containers and molds. The steam makes the material flexible and the vacuum forms it on a mold.

Sheety.

It is a device for the formation of controlled flat sheets.

Bioplastic does not use additives and its properties can be manipulated by adjusting the proportions of the base ingredients. Because it is a very versatile material, it can be converted from a solid to an original bioplastic solution, a natural fertilizer or start a recycling process.

The important thing is that it does not become a polluting residue at the end of its useful life.

More information: www.theshellworks.com

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