Iowa State Developing Bioplastics Software

AMES, IA | There is growing interest in finding renewable products that can be substituted for petrochemicals in a myriad of applications. While biobased plastics are seen as more environmentally preferable, it appears they won't be used commercially unless it can be determined they are economically viable.

That fact led Iowa State Univ. researchers to begin development of a software program that can help determine the economic viability of a proposed biobased product.

David Grewell, assistant professor of Agricultural and Biosystems Engineering, has led the software's development. "An increased interest in bioplastics due to ecological and economical issues has promoted interest in analysis of their performance from a 'cradle-to-grave' perspective," he said. "While standard methods for this sort of analysis require the collection of an enormous amount of data, this software takes a simpler approach and only considers the direct energy consumption, greenhouse gas emissions, costs of raw materials and processing." Grewell chairs Iowa State's Biopolymers and Biocomposites Research Team, which had an exhibit at the NPE2009 International Plastics Exposition June 22-26, 2009, in Chicago. The team exhibited samples of plastics, composites, adhesives and coatings they have made from vegetable oils and proteins, plus flower pots and golf tees created from some of the materials they have developed.

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