University of Amsterdam, Netherlands
Title: Plantics: Plastics made from plants
Biography: Gadi Rothenberg
How often is it that you invent something that can truly change people’s lives and make the world a better place? We’ve been working on catalyst discovery and development for bulk chemicals and sustainable energy for over a decade, and during those years we found quite a few nice things, but nothing truly spectacular. And then, five years ago, we discovered by accident a new type of biodegradable polymer made from 100% plant-based materials. It would be nice to say that this involved years of study and preparation, but in fact we were just very lucky. This new plastic is inherently non-toxic and non-hazardous. Excitingly, it is cheap enough to replace polyurethane and in some cases polypropylene and PET on a kilogram to kilogram basis (see Figure 1). It is now being manufactured on ton scale by a spin-off company, Plantics BV, which is situated at the Port of Amsterdam. During the scaling up and manufacturing we have found a host of new and exciting things. In the lecture, I will tell you how we discovered this plastic, and discuss the pros and cons of making chemicals and polymers from biomass. I will also show examples of this new type of plastics and share our stories of trying to bring a new material into the conservative industrial sectors of injection moulding, agro-products, building materials and oil drilling additives.