Chemists develop versatile bioplastic that’s friendly to Earth’s environment

Imagine a plastic that’s as good for the environment as it is for business and personal convenience.

It’s a dream with the potential to become reality, thanks to a recent sponsored research agreement between Texas A&M University and United Kingdom-based Teysha Technologies that brings together top international research scientists and elite process and commercialization experts dedicated to a common cause: developing unique intellectual property aimed at solving the world’s plastics pollution problem.

For the past decade, Texas A&M chemist Karen Wooley and her multidisciplinary research group within the Texas A&M Department of Chemistry have been working to perfect chemical approaches capable of changing the game where plastics and the related global glut — an estimate in excess of 10 million metric tons and growing — are concerned. They have succeeded in synthetically transforming sugars and other renewable bio-sourced feedstocks into sustainable polycarbonates that degrade in water to regenerate their natural building blocks and are customizable to fit a variety of applications.

Meanwhile across the Atlantic, an enterprising group of technologically savvy industrialists with the scientific acumen to match had been searching the past few years for versatile bioplastics that could form the basis of a potential commercial foundation. The two teams eventually met and joined forces, resulting in Teysha Technologies, which licensed Texas A&M University System intellectual property surrounding the bioplastics technology.

In addition to the efforts underway with administrative support from the Texas A&M Division of Research, Wooley and Texas A&M Assistant Research Scientist Ashlee Jahnke assist with industrial translation and commercial adoption as chief technology officer and head of research and development, respectively.

“Teysha was founded by Matthew Stone, Teysha’s managing director, and Ashlee and I were added to the board later to help with the technology development, which is supported through continued research here at Texas A&M through the sponsored research agreement,” Wooley said. “It ensures that further research and development can now be done, providing a pathway to translate the chemical technologies that began at Texas A&M to deliver real societal benefit.”

Jahnke describes the team’s technology as a plug-and-play system in which various additives can be used to modify the properties of the eventual polymer produced, allowing for tunable durability and biodegradability and setting it apart from other bioplastics solutions currently under development. The polymers are characterized by a diversity of shapes, sizes and fabrication methods and feature different chemical, physical and mechanical properties best suited to the situation or need and desired outcome.

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