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The nopal is a typical plant of Mexico, it belongs to the catctaceae family and with its juice they have created a biodegradable plastic that will help reduce pollution.
The academic researcherSandra pascoe, from the Universidad del Valle de Atemajac in Guadalajara, Mexico, is responsible for the project.
After many experiments with the nopal, he was able to achieve his goal using the juice of the cactus species Opuntia ficus indica, the most common cactus used in Mexican cuisine as a vegetable. He recently added the nopal cactus to his experiments Opuntia megacantha, It is consumed for its juicy fruit called “tuna”.
"Basically the plastic is formed with the sugars of the nopal juice, the monosaccharides and polysaccharides it contains“Confirms the researcher.
The nopal property has a very viscous consistency that comes from sugars, pectin and organic acids and"This viscosity is what we are taking advantage of so that a solid material can be produced", it states.
In his laboratory at the Department of Exact Sciences and Engineering, Pascoe mixed the juice of the decanted, fiber-free nopal cactus with glycerin, natural waxes, proteins and colorants to create a formula that dries on plates to obtain thin plastic sheets.
This process was registered in 2014 in the Mexican Institute of Intellectual Property (IMPI) and its development has been possible with the financing obtained from the National Council of Science and Technology (Conacyt) of Mexico.
How this natural plastic degrades
The investigations are progressing, now Pascoe with the support of the Biological and Agricultural Sciences campus of the University of Guadalajara, is yet to discover the degradation characteristics of this plastic, that is, under what conditions and how long it takes to decompose in a natural environment.
“We have done very simple degradation tests in the laboratory, we have put it, for example, in water and we have seen that it does dissolve, we need to do the chemical test to see if that material has already completely disintegrated, we have also done tests in moistened soil type compost and the material also breaks down "he commented.
How this bioplastic can be used
Regarding uses, this plastic could be used specifically to replace supermarket bags and to create low-density materials such as containers for cosmetics, bases for scientific prototypes, costume jewelery and even toys.
“As we are studying and doing hardness and resistance tests, we have realized that it can be a material that is used in different applications. We can melt that initial shape that we obtain and put it into molds ", reported.
The next step, he assures, is to find resources to generate or buy a machine that can make the special molds and create a prototype of bags so that companies know the project and are interested in adopting it.
The innovation is in the patent process. Once this is granted by the IMPI, it will be possible to generate agreements to transfer the technology to interested companies, he says.
With information from https://www.efeverde.com/