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Patent Granted for Nanotech-Enhanced Biodegradable Polymers

Corn (USDA.gov)

(USDA.gov)

Cereplast Inc., a developer of bio-based plastics in El Segundo, California, received a patent for its process of making biodegradable polymers enhanced with mineral nanoparticles. The U.S. Patent and Trademark Office issued patent number 8,389,614 to Cereplast’s CEO Frederick Scheer and research executive William Kelly, and assigned the patent to Cereplast Inc. on 5 March 2013.

The patent covers biodegradable nanopolymer compositions and methods for making those compositions, as well as techniques for producing articles made from those nanopolymers. The compositions are polylactic acid polymers, made from corn-based resins, with fillers made from nanoparticles of minerals such as silica and magnesium silicate.

Biodegradable plastics are designed to replace plastics in single-use disposal items, such as those used with food and drink such as plastic cutlery and cups. Conventional plastics, such as polyethylene, do not degrade, thus adding to the mounting toll of litter and filling up valuable landfill space.

While plastics made with polylactic acid are biodegradable, they also have a low melting point, which limits their usefulness with food service items, particularly food served hot. The process covered by the patent improves the thermal properties and stability of the plastics, while the plastics still can degrade within the 180 days required by industry standards.

Cereplast develops and manufactures resins made from polylactic acid, reinforced with other biodegradable components. The early-stage blends are then polymerized and treated with nanoscale composites for better surface quality and reinforcement, finishing up as resin pellets.

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