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22 February 2017

Plastic from potatoes shows potential for biobased materials

There is now a new potato variety with a low glycaemic index. The starch it contains can be used as a raw material for biobased plastic. Work done by research groups at SLU includes a composite material made of potato starch and wheat proteins.

Genetically modified potatoes, unlike ordinary potatoes, have many long chains of glucose in the starch molecules. Scientists at the Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences (SLU) have used this starch as part of a composite material. The starch can fuse with proteins from wheat to form a material that can be made stronger, stiffer or more elastic.

Customising mixtures of plant proteins and starch by molecular and biochemical means enables materials to be designed for various areas of use, such as packaging and plastic film. Not only can these materials can be made from biological raw materials, but they can also be composted when they are no longer used.

The study was funded partly by the Mistra Biotech research programme, which is also backing another study focusing on potatoes. A new scientific article describes a survey of potato cultivation, consumption and breeding in Sweden, Norway and Finland. One fact emerging from the article is that efforts to develop new potato varieties have declined sharply. The researchers propose that countries should team up on the potato research front and collaborate to develop new, improved varieties.

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