A Clemson University postdoctoral researcher believes she has found a way to use kudzu to create a biodegradable food packaging film as an alternative to plastic. Sneh Bangar hopes her research will lead to the use of pearl millet starch and plentiful kudzu vines to put a dent in the roughly 400 million tons of global plastic waste produced each year.
Her dissertation – Development, characterization and application of pearl millet starch-based nanocomposite films reinforced with kudzu cellulose nanocrystals – describes a process to create a biopolymer-based film called Biopack from pearl millet starch reinforced by kudzu weed cellulose nanocrystals.
Biopack is a starch-based film designed to be used once and then to biodegrade. Her research uses cellulose nanocrystals from kudzu to reinforce pearl millet starch-based biopolymer films. Pearl millet is a warm-season crop grown throughout the United States for animal feed and fodder. About 70% of each pearl millet grain is starch, which is a renewable, natural and biodegradable polymer.