Sustainable Materials from Plants and Sand
Stephen A. Miller, University of Florida
Worldwide efforts have increased greatly to identify polymeric building blocks that are not derived from fossil fuels and to employ these monomers to create polymers that readily degrade in natural environments. The Miller research group has focused on megacrop waste streams—such as corn stover and sugarcane bagasse—as sustainable feedstocks for building the next generation of disposable, packaging plastics. Thus, future plastics should have a green birth and a green death. We have developed new methods for synthesizing linear thermoplastic polymers from a variety of biogenic feedstocks, including sugars, triglycerides, bioaromatics from lignin, and C1 feedstocks obtained from trees. More recent work has focused on incorporating the second most abundant element in the earth’s crust, silicon, into polymers. This presentation will describe our efforts toward expanding the useful temperature range of sustainable/degradable bioplastics so that they can compete with incumbent commodity plastics such as water bottle plastic (PET) and Styrofoam™ (PS). The discussion will include pathways to their commercialization by a recent start-up company, U.S. Bioplastics (usbioplastics.com).