STEM is a class taught by Dr. Kevin Crowthers which teaches us various information about the scientific method and what goes into writing papers for STEM projects. For the first part of this class, we work on a five-month-long research project (seen below). During this project, we pick out a topic of interest and look for problems surrounding it. We then use our projects to try and find a solution to those problems. Along with the experimenting of the project, we did months of research which cumulated into our lit review. We also are writing a thesis which is currently pictured in its first draft here. Once this project is finished, we present it at our February fair before moving on to our STEM 2 project. This project gives us an opportunity to create a piece of assistive technology for a specified client. Check here for more updates later once this project has finished.
Plastic is a major issue which needs to be combated as they cause lots of pollution which harms the environment. Bioplastic are a necessary material to create in order to combat this overuse of plastic.
This graphical abstract shows what happens after the use of plastic vs bioplastic.
The current packaging for cosmetic products is commonly made of plastic which is hard to decompose and causes pollution. The eco-friendly packaging available is not fully customizable and doesn’t have the same strength as plastic, causing many brands to still use plastic. The objective of this project is to engineer an eco-friendly plastic that will be fully customizable in its shape, color, and design and will be able to fully biodegrade in less than a month after the degradation process begins. Starch-based bioplastics are a more widely used alternative to plastic as starches take the synthetic polymers in plastic and replace them with natural, biodegradable polymers. To create the starch-based bioplastics, the materials - cornstarch, water, vegetable oil, and glycerin - were heated on medium-low heat until they created a thick paste. They were gradually cooled in a refrigerator then tested on their strength, flexibility, customizability, and biodegradability. The results show that adding a strengthening agent, in this case, glycerin, is important for having strong and flexible bioplastic. It was also found that adding multiple starches created a stronger bioplastic. Finally, it was found that gradual cooling, such as low hot or cold, but not freezing, temperatures being applied, was the best way of drying the bioplastic. These findings allow for the possibility of bioplastic usage in many industries at a low cost. A possible application for this would be for packaging cosmetic products. Future research that will be done is testing how the bioplastic holds up during transportation.
The current packaging for cosmetic products is commonly made of plastic or otherwise non eco-friendly materials that are hard to decompose and cause pollution. The eco-friendly packaging alternative available is not fully customizable and doesn’t have the same strength as plastic, causing many brands to stick with the plastic options.
The objective of this project is to engineer an eco-friendly packaging type that will be fully customizable in its shape, color, and design. This packaging will be able to fully biodegrade in less than a month after the degradation process begins without creating microplastics or other harmful chemicals.
Plastic is a commonly used material with many different
applications, from packaging to construction to the making of
clothing. Though plastic is convenient due to its high levels of
strength and low cost, it causes much pollution within the world due
to its long degradation time. During this degradation process,
plastic produces many harmful chemicals along with microplastics,
which are small bits of plastic that have the same, if not worse,
environmental consequences. (Windsor et al., 2019).
Bioplastics are becoming a more widely used alternative to plastic as they are a plastic-like material, usually made from natural materials or biomass, which can biodegrade in a relatively short time period without the production of microplastics (Sagnelli et al., 2017). Many bioplastics have a base made from polysaccharides which are a type of carbohydrate made up of monosaccharide chains joined by glycosidic bonds. Polysaccharides are used often as they are very stable while also being biodegradable and easy to renew (Shafqat et al., 2020). Starch-based bioplastics are a type of bioplastic that is becoming more popular since starch, a common carbohydrate and polysaccharide, can replace the synthetic polymers which are seen in plastic with natural ones. These natural polymers are what allow for the biodegradation process to happen (Utility of Starch-Based Plastics, 2018).
In order to make my bioplastic, I started with gathering materials.
For my final prototype, I used the materials rice water, cornstarch,
glycerin, and vinegar. This was an adaptation of a bioplastic recipe
from Nakaya, 2021 with the replacement of water with rice water.
Adding in rice water helped to improve the strength and flexibility
of the bioplastic. I then heated the materials before cooling them
with low constant heat. Once that is all done, the bioplastic is