Vilnius Gediminas Technical University (VGTU) tandem – a student and a researcher – created an innovative material – cellulose nanocrystals, derived from the fibre of hemp, grown in Lithuania. They can use the raw material, visually similar to flour, for the production of compositional bioplastics. Food packaging, made from such an environmentally friendly material, would be ecological and would break up quicker.
Currently, one of the most common food packaging is plastic, which accounts for about ten per cent of all waste in Lithuania. In our country, about fifty thousand tons of plastic packaging appear on the market, about fifteen thousand of which are made of polyethylene terephthalate (PET) packaging, naturally decomposing within 400-500 years.
Replacing only one – three per cent of the PET plastic composition by crystals, the material would become about thirty per cent stronger. The research, carried out in VGTU laboratories on Polymer degradation, should foresee the time, necessary for the decay of the plastic with nano-cellulose crystals: they believe that the innovative supplement might reduce the decay time more than twice.
According to the student of VGTU, we can use cellulose nanocrystals not only for the production of bioplastics, but also for nano-cellulose. This material is comparable with carbon fibre in its strength. We can apply cellulose nanocrystals in a variety of industries, such as construction, textile, aviation, etc.
They calculated that the introduction of technologies for extraction of cellulose nanocrystals from hemp fibres, using ultrasounds, and application of the material for the production of various products in an industrial enterprise would cost about seventy thousand Litas. This investment could pay off during three or five years.
VGTU student M. Juršys and Doctor of Chemical Sciences I. Bružaitė are involved in the Innovative Business Promotion (INOVEKS) project, and after consultations in the North Campus Technology Park, founded small company “Metanoja”. Concerning business development, the promising start up is already communicating with prospective investors and representatives of venture capital funds.