Fantastic Bioplastic


Plastic’s cheapness, versatility and durability are undeniable, but in a burgeoning Ocean Internet of Things, plastic as we know it and the marine environment are a toxic combination.

“In the same way that your phone is connected to your car, your computer, your thermostat and your doorbell, there’s also a growing number of connected devices all over the ocean,” said UC Santa Barbara marine microbiologist Alyson Santoro(link is external). These sensors, nodes in a growing networked “blue economy,” are used to gather and transmit data important to the various industries that do their work in the marine environment, such as shipping, tourism, oil and gas, and fisheries.

And once deployed, Santoro said, these devices are never retrieved, adding to the growing amount of plastic in the sea.

But what if there was a way to avoid the problem of plastic pollution while still reaping the benefits of a networked ocean? This potential win-win has inspired Santoro along with University of Rochester synthetic biologist Anne Meyer, University of Rhode Island oceanographer Melissa Omand, ecologist Ryan Freedman from the Channel Islands National Marine Sanctuary and industry partner Mango Materials. Together, they are  developing bioplastics engineered to degrade in the ocean. Supported by the National Science Foundation’s Convergence Accelerator(link is external) program, the group, collectively known as Nereid Biomaterials(link is external), is poised to dive into Phase 2(link is external) of their research project, in which their biodegradable bioplastic is put to the test.

News Date: 

Tuesday, November 8, 2022