Biobased Materials for Packaging Applications Introduction

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					                Biobased Materials for Packaging Applications

Introduction
Biobased materials have moved from concept to marketable applications in the
last few years, but with an emphasis that reflects the currently changing attitudes
toward product lifecycles. Manufacturers can no longer be content to simply
implement a new bottle composed of a biodegradable plastic. Now, visionary
manufacturers feel the market pull to go beyond switching to biobased polymers
and are asking researchers to develop complimentary biobased components,
such as the processing aids, plasticizers or other additives. Low-cost
carbohydrate, lipid, and protein feedstocks from soybeans, corn, and other
sources are playing an increasing role in these new and enhanced material
developments. The overall goal in biomaterials research is to provide lower cost
and/or novel intermediates, specialty chemicals, polymer resins, and plastics,
which mirror the conventional material options to which we have become
accustomed and to extend those performance features where possible.

Materials Developments
Fundamentally, a biobased material begins with some component or derivative of
a living organism—a plant—that has been engineered or processed for selective
characteristics and properties. Biodegradability has often been the initial driver
behind biomaterial innovation. However, researchers are quickly expanding their
focus as they begin to understand and sometimes rediscover the benefits that
the biobased chemical building blocks offer. For example, bioplastics based on
soybeans and corn feedstocks are now being used in tractor parts, water bottles,
and many consumer goods.

Soybeans are a terrific example of how biomaterials are developed. Comprised
of oil, protein, cellulose and other carbohydrates, soybeans contain several
sources of functional molecules to be exploited by scientists. Soy protein is a
mixture of various fractions whose amino acids contain some useful functionality.
Because acids, bases, and enzymes can easily hydrolyze native soy protein,
hydrolyzed fragments can potentially be used to create adhesives, composites,
polymer resins, coatings, and so on. Due to the unique feedstock characteristics,
abundant agricultural output, and research funding support by the growers
organizations, many innovative products are being derived from soybeans.

Many other types of plants are demonstrating their applicability to biomaterials
developments. Corn and grasses are being explored as fuel sources, but also
can be converted into materials with applications in packaging and consumer
products. Palm oil, losing favor as an ingredient in food products, shows great
promise in a biorefinery concept where it is initially being purified for biodiesel
fuel.. In conjunction with the fuel application, vegetable oils yield glycerin as a co-
product and can be harnessed to produce novel, low-cost reactive biopolyols that
can be used for foams, coatings, and adhesives.

Future Research Directions
While researchers could concentrate for some time on the existing raw materials,
such as conventional soybeans or corn, the tremendous demand and potential
for biomaterials is pushing the research prioritization back to the plant’s genetic
material. Academic and government agencies are funding genetics research to
develop plants that with increasing suitability for biomaterials end products. As a
result, feedstock characteristics are changing and are rapidly adding to the list of
chemicals that can be derived from these feedstocks. Ultimately,
commercialization will depend on innovative researchers and their ability to work
with these new-generation chemicals. Researchers are actively examining
feedstock characteristics and trying to develop value-added products for the
marketplace, which currently is very interested in biomaterials and
environmentally conscious products or processes.

Battelle is a key partner in the Ohio BioProducts Innovation Center (OBIC). As
part of OBIC, at Battelle an onsite synthesis and development laboratory
designed to accelerate the discovery and development phases of biobased
research. The OBIC is a joint effort that includes the The Ohio State University,
Ohio Soybean Council, PolymerOhio, Inc., and Battelle, and is funded through a
Third Frontier grant from the State of Ohio. The OBIC effort seeks innovative
products and process improvements that can bridge Ohio’s chemical, plastics,
and rubber materials businesses with the state’s $80 billion annual agricultural
output.


           Recent Recognition for Battelle Biomaterials Developments

      Battelle has received the following awards:
      • GPEC Environmental Sustainability and Plastics Recycling in Action
         (2007)—Design for Sustainability—Soy Toner
      • R&D 100 Award (2006)—Reactive Biopolyols
      • European Bioplastics News Bioplastics Awards (2006)—Best
         Biopackaging Application– Non-food Application runner-up—
         Biobased Powder Coatings
      • R&D 100 Award (2003)—Soy Resin-based Toner
      • R&D 100 Award (2002)—Soy Plasticizer for Poly(vinyl-chloride)
         (PVC) Products