According to a recent Phys.org article, chemist Challa Kumar, a professor emeritus of chemistry, has developed two technologies to address the global issue of plastic waste. The first involves transforming naturally occurring proteins into plastic-like materials with a unique 3D structure. The protein-based material is biodegradable, breaking down within a few days in acidic solutions, and can be tailored for various applications such as coffee cup lids, transparent films, fire-resistant roof tiles, car doors, rocket cone tips, and heart valves.
The second technology uses proteins reinforced with natural fibers, specifically cotton, to create composite materials. This approach repurposes textile waste from the fast fashion industry into useful materials. The resulting protein-fabric composites are biodegradable and exhibit strength, making them suitable for items like small shoes, desks, flowers, and chairs. The team expects similar success with other fiber materials like hemp or jute due to their shared chemical properties with cotton.