The biodegradable polymer is a solution found to reduce the impacts that common compounds can cause on the environment. To obtain this result, the production is made from raw materials from renewable sources, DNA structures, and products used in the manufacture of plastic packaging.
In this case — and of other molecules, such as enzymes, proteins, and RNA — the living organisms are responsible for the synthesis. On the other hand, synthetic biopolymers and plastics go through a polymerization process, which is done with elements from renewable sources, replacing petroleum derivatives.
Do you want to know more details about how to make polymers biodegradable, and what are the advantages it can offer for the well-being of the environment? Keep reading this complete article, which we, from the Polyexcel team, have prepared for you!
How biodegradable polymers are formed?
The common polymer is a macromolecule formed by repetitions of small structural units, known as monomers. In the biodegradable polymer produced by living beings, such as peptides, polysaccharides, RNA, and DNA, the monomeric units are nucleotides, amino acids, and sugars.
Corn, which produces starch, and sugarcane, which produces cellulose, are two examples of biodegradable polymers sources. Also, other sources present a shorter life than fossils, such as petroleum, which takes many years to form.
History of biodegradable polymer
Despite the cellulose having been discovered in the second half of the 19th century, the research on it was archived for a while due to the World Wars. During this period, studies have focused on the production of petroleum-sourced polymers.
But the research did not stop there: in the same decade, the manufacture of polymer surpassed that of steel. However, with the increase in petroleum prices because of high demand and concern for the planet, the researchers began to study biopolymers.
In Brazil, studies on biodegradable polymers were started in 1991, through research on fermentative processes. Although it is still a recent observation, the Brazilian polymer market has good options with low environmental impact.
What are the main applications of biodegradable polymer?
The biodegradable plastic material can be used in several ways. One of them is in medicine, in which polymers are used in the manufacture of implants, sutures, and bone fixations. Another advantage is that it is absorbed by the body in the same amount of time as tissue regeneration.
A current example of a biodegradable polymer is polyhydroxyalkanoate (PHA). Produced in bioreactors, it has bacteria that conserve biopolymers in cells.
In the industry, a known alternative is green polyethylene (PE), which besides having the same application as PE of fossil origin, captures CO2 from the atmosphere for production. This type of biopolymer has been used in the production of automobiles, cosmetics, hygiene items, toys, and cleaning supplies.
Polyamide (PA) are other examples of biodegradable plastics. As being polysaccharides, it is produced from corn, potato wheat or cassava. In this case, the starch removed from the vegetables goes through a chemical process of destabilization and a rearrangement of molecules, generating the plastic.
What is the advantage of biodegradable polymer?
Here, the main advantage is the degradation mechanism of biodegradable polymers in the environment. This process is a result of the action of naturally occurring microorganisms, such as algae, fungi, and bacteria. The decomposition of the material occurs in the transformation of it into smaller molecules, causing less environmental impact.
In fact, it is due to the sustainable characteristics that biopolymers are gaining more and more space in the polymeric market. When betting on biodegradable polymer products, consumer companies count on a good service life and easy disposal material.
On the other hand, it is important to be aware of some disadvantages of biodegradable polymers. Thus, even presenting this benefit when compared to traditional polymers, the natural biodegradation of some biopolymers can result in the production of methane gas (CH4). In addition, this compound is reabsorbed by natural processes more slowly.
However, we can conclude that the advantages of biopolymers, such as biocompatibility and less environmental impact, are more significant than the disadvantage in the composition of biodegradable materials to replace plastic.
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