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From China, biorecyclable and biodegradable glass based on modified peptides

Biodegradable glass has similar or superior performance to traditional glass

It will have a minimum environmental footprint. It will be completely degradable in the environment. And also recyclable with the use of biological processes only. It is biodegradable glass, a new material developed by a team of researchers from the Institute of Process Engineering of the Chinese Academy of Sciences.

A biodegradable glass with performance similar to traditional glass

How are these ecological glasses produced? The one invented by Professor Ruirui Xing and his colleagues is a family of glasses of biological origin, manufactured using amino acids or peptides (that is amino acid chains, the basic building blocks of which proteins are composed). They are biologically derived and are transformed into biodegradable glass through the classic heating-quenching procedure, that is, heating and rapid cooling.

By introducing chemical changes at the ends of amino acid chains, the researchers found that these are able to form a super-cooled liquid (brought to temperatures below those of solidification, but without actually becoming solid)and finally a material similar to glass at the end of the process.

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The developed glasses have excellent glass forming capabilities and optical characteristics and are suitable for 3D printed additive manufacturing and casting. Moreover, the glasses show biocompatibility, biodegradability and biorecyclability superior to glasses and plastic materials currently on the market“, explain the authors of the study published in Science Advances.

The prospects for use are good. But there is a significant obstacle in the way of the large-scale diffusion of this biodegradable glass. “The concept of biomolecular glass, beyond the glasses or plastics used on the market, can be the basis of a green life technology for a sustainable future,” explains Yan Xuehai, one of the authors. “However, biomolecular glass is currently in the laboratory phase and far from large-scale commercialisation”.

The problem is in the production phase. Obtaining this material, for now, is only possible through a costly production process. That depends on its biodegradability. In fact, the biomolecules used “have poor thermal stability and easily decompose at high temperatures typically used in glass production”, the authors stress.

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