Can squid help find eco-friendly plastic alternatives? Researchers find that a protein in squid teeth can be an excellent alternative to plastics and even revolutionize various materials.
Plastic Alternative From Squid Teeth
Plastic waste is a major problem, and the oceans are some of the most affected areas. Interestingly, a team of scientists discovered that the answer may be from the ocean as well. Researchers of a new study found that the properties of a recently discovered squid protein, specifically from squid ring teeth (SRT), can revolutionize materials in a way that conventional plastic cannot.
Apart from its elasticity, flexibility, and strength, SRT-based materials can also conduct electricity and is thermal, optical, and self-healing because of the variety of ways that its molecular arrangements can adopt.
According to researchers, these natural materials can be excellent alternatives to plastics especially since they are biodegradable, eco-friendly, and sustainable. Furthermore, the SRT protein can be easily and cheaply made in the laboratory using genetically engineered bacteria, so there is no need to use actual squid.
Apart from being an excellent plastic alternative, the SRT protein also has many other revolutionary uses. For instance, its self-healing property may be used by the textile industry to provide clothes with abrasion-resistant coating that will reduce microfiber erosion in washing machines, thereby also reducing microplastic pollution. It can even be used to create clothes that can protect against biological and chemical warfare agents.
Furthermore, SRT proteins may also be used to develop smart clothing that can protect from pollution while also monitoring its wearer’s health. According to study lead author Mike Demirel, SRT photonics may be used to create wearable health monitors and implantable devices because they are biocompatible and biodegradable.
“Scaling up these materials requires additional work. We are now working on the processing technology of these materials so that we can make them available in industrial manufacturing processes,” said Demirel. So far, researchers have produced fibers, coatings, and 3D objects made from SRT proteins.
The study is published in Frontiers in Chemistry.