Plastic pollution is in crisis. Not only is this wreaking havoc on the world’s oceans, but it is also creating a public health dilemma that we are only just beginning to address. Today more than ever, it is vital to find alternatives to plastic, for the good of the whole planet.
Interestingly enough, that alternative could be a material we’ve been using for thousands of years: paper. In a new study published in the journal Research in industrial and technical chemistry On Friday, researchers at the University of Tokyo created a liquid compound, called Choetsu, that can create a durable, waterproof coating when applied to paper.
“Some materials can be safely degraded, such as paper, but obviously paper cannot meet the wide range of uses for plastic boxes,” said Zenji Hiroi, a professor at the Institute of Physics. solids from the University of Tokyo and co-author of the study. , said in a press release. “However, we have found a way to give paper some of the attractive properties of plastic, but without the drawbacks. We call it Choetsu, a low-cost biodegradable coating that adds water repellency and strength to plain paper.
The substance is made up of inexpensive chemicals such as isopropyl alcohol, methyltrimethoxysilane, and tetraisopropyl titanate. When applied to a paper object like a take-out container or an origami crane, it dries at room temperature and creates a thin layer of silica that makes the paper strong and waterproof. The coating also contains a property that makes it resistant to dirt and bacteria, which could prevent the paper from forming mold.
It is not permanent. Over time, the coating will break down into what the researchers claim are harmless elements like carbon, water, and grainy silicon. However, the chemical could one day give rise to sprays and coatings that can be used on paper to give them all the utility of plastic without the adverse effects on our environment and our bodies.
“Alongside researcher Yoko Iwamiya, who has been working in this field for some time now, and the rest of my team, I hope we can do something that is truly beneficial for the world,” Hiroi said.