Starch-based plastic represents a good alternative to the usual plastic. Among the different types of starch, the young Swedish student Pontus Törnqvist researched the potato starch. His invention is a candidate for the prestigious James Dyson award.
As the student himself recounts, “I was interested in finding solutions for the post-use life of disposable plastic materials. The starting point was the discrepancy between the time people use plastic objects (20 minutes) and the time they remain in the environment (450 years!).
Pontus Törnqvist followed the classic scientific method, and therefore he carried out a ‘trial and error’ process. “Initially, I thought I could use algae in my biodegradable thermoplastic project somehow. However, when I warmed the algae up, all that I got was a sort of algae cookie. When I tried to mix algae with potato starch, a small part of that liquid fell on the ground. When it dried up, it formed a sort of film. Therefore, I focused all my energy into this”.
This is how Potato Plastic was born. This is a biodegradable material that can be used to make every object that is usually made with disposable plastic: from straws to cutlery. Then, it will be turned into compost within two months after the use.
Potato Plastic is produced by combining potato starch and water. Then, the two are warmed up until the liquid thickens. After that, the mixture is poured into moulds and exposed to heat until it becomes a compact and dry piece. Depending on the liquid quantity poured into the moulds, the materials can be thick, hard or a slim film.
The student, “It is a thermoplastic material, which means that it can be modelled when it is exposed to heat and humidity. This opens up many design possibilities, from the shape to the appearance of the surfaces. An extreme heat is not necessary. Therefore, moulds can be made out of plastics. This extremely reduces the costs compared to using metal-made moulds”.
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