Industry/university bioplastics research center a first
“Plastics…There’s a great future in plastics.” That line from the 1967 movie The Graduate could be revised to say that the future is now in bioplastics. Washington State University, in collaboration with Iowa State University, recently established the first industry and university cooperative research center devoted to the development of biologically based plastics.
“Making plastics is not new, but making them from renewable materials rather than from petroleum is a growing area of interest in research and in industry,” said Michael Kessler, Berry Family director.
“There are advantages of bioplastics from an environmental, economic, and even performance standpoint, and the field is growing exponentially,” he said. “I am confident that this center will address many of the critical issues in bio-based polymers and composites which will lead to a more sustainable future.”
With support from a National Science Foundation grant, the Center for Bioplastics and Biocomposites will work with industry and university partners to increase the use of biologically based, sustainable materials in the marketplace.
The five-year award creates a cooperative research center that brings together partners to conduct research that is particularly relevant for industry and has a high potential for commercialization. There are about 60 such research centers in the United States, including another at WSU that is focused on the design of integrated circuits. Industry partners also provide support for the center.
Research in the new center will be focused in the areas of synthesis and compounding of bioplastics and biocomposites, bio-based products, processing, medical applications, and computer modeling of processing techniques. In addition to 17 faculty members from WSU, the center includes researchers from ISU as well as over 25 industry partners such as 3M, Boeing, ADM, Hyundai Motor Group, Ford, Solvay, and Eco Products.