Researchers based in China modified chemical elements of their glass to make it easily decomposable under high temperatures.
The material is hoped to soon replace existing, inorganic glass which cannot be naturally degraded or recycled after use.
This study, conducted by scientists at the Institute of Process Engineering (IPE) of the Chinese Academy of Sciences, says the new glass could provide an essential element of “green-life technology” to be used for a sustainable future, they have developed a biodegradable, organic, glass which could replace existing material in the coming years.
The study was published in the journal Science Advances. The material is eco-friendly and naturally recyclable and possibly end worldwide glass pollution.
Glass is a material used in all aspects of modern human life – from eyeglasses and windows to mirrors and drinking glasses or bottles.
However, the persistent use of these non-biodegradable objects which cannot be naturally disposed of is the cause of widespread and long-term environmental hazards.
These traditionally-used glasses, such as commercial inorganic glass and PMMA glass – also known as acrylic glass – are biologically incompatible and cannot be naturally broken down or reused.
With this in mind, the study, headed by Professor Xuehai Yan, developed a family of eco-friendly glass of biological origin made from natural amino acids or peptides – short chains of amino acids.
The researchers used chemically-modified amino acids and peptides to make the ‘biomolecular’ material through the melt-quenching process classically used to manufacture glass.
The team tracked the glass-forming ability, kinetic transitioning, thermodynamic parameters and performance of the glass.
The organic glass invented by the IPE research team was found to be both biodegradable – capable of being decomposed by living organisms – and biorecyclable, meaning the material can be broken down and used to make new materials.
The development of such naturally-degradable glass is additionally expected to have a minimal environmental footprint.
The glass was surprisingly shown to have a unique combination of functional and mechanical properties, eco-friendly features and flexible processability, as well as being biodegradable and biorecycable.
Yan explained: “The concept of biomolecular glass, beyond the commercially-used glasses or plastics, may underlie a green-life technology for a sustainable future.”
However, the study authors are also measuring their excitement by admitting the biomolecular glass is still a long way off from widespread use across the world.
“The biomolecular glass is currently in the laboratory stage. It is far from large-scale commercialization,” Yan said.
Produced in association with SWNS Talker