Researchers in the group of Professor Chiara Dariao have been working to develop a novel biocomposite material that could one day become a sustainable replacement for plastic packaging or engineered wood (used for example in furniture kits). The group uses cultured plant cells as the fundamental building block, and as such are completely biodegradable. The material can be molded and printed, and by adding bio-based fillers and tweaking processing conditions, the properties can be tuned over a large range to provide similar strength to conventional materials. The group recently published a paper in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences detailing their initial results, Biological matrix composites from cultured plant cells. They are now working to develop a scalable process to grow the material, using wastewater treatment ponds as source of algae, and further developing the processing of these materials.
We created biocomposites from cultured plant cells that have stiffness and strength comparable to woods and commodity plastics.
Significance and Impact
Our biocomposite materials are bio-degradable, reusable, can be manufactured on site, produce zero waste, and require no arable land.
- A compression/dehydration process arranges the cells into lamellar structures.
- The introduction of fillers expands attainable functionalities.
- Our fabrication process is low energy and requires no harsh chemical treatments.