Are Shrimp Shells the Future of Plastic?

Researchers at Harvard University have discovered a novel new way to create plastic– shrimp shells. According to a report from CNN, researchers have been able to utilize shrimp shells as a key ingredient to create a new form of plastic. According to the article:

In experiments with the material in shrimp shells, called chitosan, and material from silk, known as fibroin, researchers at Harvard’s Wyss Institute for Biologically Inspired Engineering put the two together at a nano level. The result was a material they call “shrilk” — a substance that’s both remarkably malleable and incredibly sturdy.

“It actually feels like a huge beetle shell, or cuticle,” says Don Ingber, the director of the Wyss Institute.

“(It) can be very strong in terms of tensile strength. If you wet them they can actually get more flexible,” he adds. “We can get the range of different properties of plastics by changing how we fabricate these.”

Though an odd concept, this technology could have benefits for the consumer. By utilizing a material that is often thrown away (i.e. Shrimp Shells), this discovery offers a new environmentally friendly way to create something that consumers use in their daily lives. Further, by being able to create a non-petroleum based plastic this technology could have an impact on energy markets as well, as it could lead to a decrease in the demand for oil. Therefore, though early, technologies such as this could have the ability to change the plastic industry in the future, which in turn could have an impact on your average consumer.

Read More- “Shrimp-based invention new step in plastic” (Tom Leopold, CNN)

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A rising senior at Colgate University, John is currently working as a research fellow with Consumers' Research.

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