Thursday, August 11, 2022

Can silk replace microplastics? , Science and Technology

New York: Researchers at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) in the US have developed a silk-based biodegradable system to replace harmful microplastics added to agricultural products, paints and cosmetics.

Microplastics, tiny plastic particles now found in air, water and soil around the world, are increasingly recognized as a serious pollution threat, and are found in the bloodstream of animals and people worldwide.

Unlike the higher quality silk yarns used for finer fabrics, the silk protein used in the new alternative material is widely available and less expensive.

While silkworm cocoons must be painstakingly unraveled to produce the fine threads needed for the fabric, for this use, non-textile-quality cocoons can be used, and the silk fibers can be simply spun into a scalable water. Can be dissolved using a cut-based process.

The processing is so simple and tunable that the resulting material can be adapted to work on existing manufacturing equipment, potentially providing a simple “drop in” solution using existing factories, the team described in a paper. says in ‘Small’ magazine.

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“We can’t solve the whole microplastic problem with one solution that fits all of them. Ten percent of a large number is still a big number. We need a solution,” said Benedetto Marelli, an MIT professor of civil and environmental engineering. Not getting it.” Over time, one percent of the world will address climate change and pollution.”

Silk is considered safe for food or medical use, as it is non-toxic and degrades naturally in the body. In laboratory tests, the researchers demonstrated that the silk-based coating material could be used in existing, standard spray-based manufacturing equipment to make it soluble in standard water.

The microencapsulated herbicide product was tested in a greenhouse on a corn crop. Testing showed it worked even better than an existing commercial product, causing less damage to plants, said Muchun Liu, a doctoral student at MIT.

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The secret to adapting the material to existing devices, Liu explained, lies in the compatibility of the silk material.

The material can be hydrophobic (water-repellent), even if it has been created and processed in a water solution, or it can be hydrophilic (water-attractive), or anywhere in between, and for a given application. Is. For this it can be made to match the characteristics of the material used to replace it.

Liu said the new method could use low-grade silk that is unusable for clothing, and large quantities of which are currently discarded because they have no significant use. It can also use used, discarded silk cloth, dispose of that material in landfills.

(IANS)

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