Forest scientists at the University of Göttingen develop plant-based, environmentally friendly material
Modern packaging has to do much more than just meet the specific requirements for transport, storage and presentation: it also has to be sustainable. But what does sustainable really mean? This means that the material must be environmentally friendly and made from renewable raw materials, be robust enough to allow reuse, and be easy to recycle at the end of its useful life. For many years, a research group at the University of Göttingen has been using its energy and expertise to investigate manufacturing processes for products made from popcorn. These products have the potential to be environmentally friendly alternatives to polystyrene or plastic. The university has now signed a license agreement with Nordgetreide for the commercial use of the process and the products for the packaging sector.
With a share of almost 40 percent, the packaging industry is still the largest consumer of plastic products. However, large manufacturers and retail chains have long since begun to rethink their packaging policies and seek more recycling. The research group Chemistry and Process Engineering of Composite Materials at the Faculty of Forest Sciences and Forest Ecology at the University of Göttingen has now succeeded in developing a new type of raw material process based on its many years of experience in the field of renewable energies. The result is that three-dimensional shapes can be made from “granulated” popcorn. The big advantage of this granular material is that it comes from renewable biological sources, is environmentally friendly and sustainable. It is therefore an excellent alternative to the previously used polystyrene products.
“This new process, which is based on the technology developed in the plastics industry, enables the production of a large number of molded parts,” explains the head of the research group, Professor Alireza Kharazipour. “This is especially important when it comes to packaging as it ensures that products are transported safely, which minimizes waste. And all of this was achieved with a material that is later even biodegradable. “In addition, the new popcorn products have water-repellent properties that open up new possibilities for future applications.
Stefan Schult, managing director of Nordgetreide, which has an exclusive license, adds: “Every day we pollute our earth with more and more plastic waste, which will pollute our ecosystem for thousands of years. Our popcorn packaging is a great sustainable alternative to polystyrene, which is made from petroleum. The vegetable packaging is made from the inedible by-products of cornflakes production and can be composted without leaving any residue after use. “
The license agreement between the University and Nordgetreide was brokered by MBM ScienceBridge GmbH, a wholly owned subsidiary of the Foundation for Public Law of the University of Göttingen. The agency works for a total of nine universities and scientific institutions in Lower Saxony. MBM ScienceBridge examines scientific inventions for the possibility of a patent application and for economic potential. It then takes care of global marketing as well as negotiating, supporting and monitoring license agreements. The current portfolio includes projects in the fields of biomedicine, medical technology, measurement technology, chemistry, physics, forestry and agricultural sciences.
Professor Alireza Kharazipour
University of Göttingen
Faculty of Forest Sciences and Forest Ecology
Research group chemistry and process engineering of composites
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