UBC entrepreneurs join fight against plastic pollution

UBC entrepreneurs join fight against plastic pollution

New suggestions include things like compostable bioplastics and modern coating that extends item lifespan

The conclusion of plastic pollution—in the oceans, on land and in our air—could be in just achieve with two UBC ventures functioning tough on options that could make this vision a reality.

“Tonnes of plastic squander pollute our land and oceans,” states Dr. Jordan MacKenzie, co-founder and CEO of Bioform Systems, a UBC start-up that is working on bringing a absolutely compostable bioplastic to the marketplace.

“We use the world’s most regenerative materials to make items that sustainably remove plastic squander devoid of the environmentally friendly premium.”

‘Plastic’ from kelp and wood fibre

Bioform turns kelp and wooden fibre—both plentiful in B.C.—into thin but tough bioplastic movies that can be instantly utilised for programs like agricultural mulch film, utilised to control soil dampness and secure crops, or rigid packaging products and solutions this sort of as beverage lids and takeout containers.

“Most plastic mulch is produced from polyethylene (PE) for the reason that it is inexpensive and durable, but PE can keep in the soil for decades and lead to considerable environmental contamination,” says Dr. MacKenzie. “As effectively, foodstuff packaging squander is a extended-standing problem—tonnes of beverage lids finish up in the landfill since they are nearly unattainable to recycle.”

MacKenzie retains a PhD in fluid mechanics and created the engineering in the course of his time as a postdoctoral fellow and then investigation affiliate at UBC’s department of chemical and organic engineering with professor Dr. Mark Martinez, co-founder of Bioform.

The technology—originally influenced by the spinning of dragline silk, the strong, rigid strands that sort spider webs— bridges organic processes and papermaking to generate rolls of film that can be pressed into a ideal condition with no heat, reducing the environmental footprint and charge of production.  “Our technology is very flexible and we are at the moment building biodegradable bioplastic tubing for use in the clinic environment,” notes Dr. Martinez.

Bioform’s bioplastic decomposes quickly under normal household conditions

Bioform’s bioplastic decomposes rapidly underneath usual house problems. Picture: Kai Jacobson/UBC Used Science

As opposed to other biodegradable plastics that have to have specific problems to crack down, Bioform’s bioplastic decomposes quickly below normal domestic conditions, which MacKenzie demonstrates by throwing in a couple of takeout containers in the organic and natural bin outside his place of work. 6 months later on, worms in the soil have damaged down the containers into a handful of scraps.

Bioform was recently named among the the 50 most investable clean tech ventures and is aiming to go professional scale next yr. It options to transfer out of its facility at UBC’s HATCH Venture Builder into more substantial premises in the Lower Mainland.

“It’s thrilling to see how far we can acquire this know-how to produce new products that do not harm the atmosphere,” states Dr. MacKenzie. “We’re now at a stage exactly where we can compete in expense and performance from some of the most popular plastics.”

Self-healing polymer

A2O is testing novel polymers that when added to products like marine paints and industrial coatings can make them self-healing and weather-resistant

A2O co-founder Dr. Damon Gilmour demonstrates a novel polymer that can make items like marine paints and industrial coatings self-therapeutic and temperature-resistant. Photo: Paul Joseph/UBC Applied Science

Where by Bioform looks to eradicate nonrecyclable plastics, a different UBC venture, A2O Sophisticated Products Inc., gives a diverse tactic to advertising sustainability by a new class of materials that make solutions that get the job done lengthier and more successfully.

The A2O workforce is screening a course of novel polymers that when additional to other goods like maritime paints and industrial coatings can make them self-therapeutic and weather-resistant, growing their lifespan.

What helps make the polymer special is it has been improved utilizing an innovative, patented course of action so that it can rebuild itself when it is torn and scratched—which the staff demonstrates by snapping a piece in 50 % and then viewing it reform into a solitary intact piece.

“You could pretty much phone these materials alive. They have the skill to respond to stimuli and are self-therapeutic,” claims A2O co-founder Dr. Damon Gilmour.

“We’re seeking to deploy people components in worldwide industries such as shipping, electrical power and textiles wherever the means of the components to self-recover or reply to external stressors suggests the solution can past for a longer time and perform more competently.”

For instance, self-therapeutic resources have drawn escalating consideration from battery suppliers wanting to prolong the lifespan of telephones, power storage products and very similar products. This will also help preserve treasured metals that are required in their manufacture.

“These special supplies possess a plethora of outstanding qualities this sort of as reversibility, versatility, self-therapeutic, adhesion, biocompatibility, thermal balance, anticorrosion and antimicrobial exercise all at after, a combination that simply cannot be discovered in a further course of polymeric materials,” notes A2O co-founder, chemical and organic engineering professor Dr. Savvas Hatzikiriakos.

A2O is at the moment scaling the technology as a result of pilot tasks created to deal with some of the most important environmental issues in industry, which includes biofouling, corrosion and textile squander. States co-founder and UBC chemistry professor Dr. Laurel Schafer: “It is exciting to see environment-foremost inexperienced chemistry technology produced in this article at UBC end result in new supplies with impressive and transformative homes. The potential purposes are pretty varied and existing inspiring sustainability research difficulties for the staff.”

Both of those Bioform and A2O received support from entrepreneurship@UBC, which brings entrepreneurial thinking and management skills to assistance promising UBC commence-ups unlock their probable.

“Since its inception in 2013, entrepreneurship@UBC has mobilized UBC innovation, serving to to translate the university’s top-edge study into tangible effects via the creation of ventures,” notes Dr. Sean Lumb, interim controlling director with e@UBC. “It’s remarkable to see transformative ventures this kind of as A2O and Bioform now bringing their options to marketplace and resolving some of the world’s most urgent troubles.”

Job interview language(s):  English (MacKenzie, Gilmour)

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About e@UBC:

Since 2013, entrepreneurship@UBC has mobilized UBC innovation and entrepreneurship, assisting the UBC local community to translate their innovation into tangible effect by means of the development of transformative ventures. Doing the job with a multitude of schools, institutes and scholar clubs, entrepreneurship@UBC activates business people and innovators in an equitable and inclusive setting by furnishing experiential discovering, sources, and products and services directed at enterprise development, funding and progress. To date, entrepreneurship@UBC has supported 650 ventures who have raised $1.46 billion in funding, produced a lot more than $730 million in earnings and developed 1,494 work opportunities, stimulating the economic and socal landscape of B.C., while developing anchor corporations that have world impression.