UNT Research, Volume 17, 2008 Page: 24
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T R I e
sa I 1 y 1 cl l
Nandika D'Souza, associate professor of materials science and engineering at the
University of North Texas, envisions a future where conventional plastics are replaced
with "bioplastics." These materials - made using corn, bacterial microorganisms
or natural fibers such as jute, hemp and kenaf - would look, behave, feel and perform
like petroleum-based plastics but also decompose harmlessly and relatively quickly.
The move to these more eco-conscious materials would reduce the need for plastics
made with increasingly scarce and expensive petroleum. Those plastics, which take
hundreds of years to degrade, lead to clogged landfills and a national reliance on foreign oil.
POLYMER MECHANICAL AND
Nandika D'Souza directs the Polymer
Mechanical and Rheology Laboratory at
UNT, supervising six graduate students
and two undergraduates from UNT's Texas
Academy of Mathematics and Science.
D'Souza and her team research a variety
of topics affecting the development
of the next generation of bioplastics,
including nanostructured polymers and
The lab, part of the Department of
Materials Science and Engineering, is
in Discovery Park, UNT's 285-acre
research park located four miles north of
campus. D'Souza, a recognized expert
in polymer nanocomposites, has been an
investigator on more than $2 million in
research funding at UNT.
To learn more about DiSouza's work,
visit www. unt.edu/untresearch.
A oTR'KK IN Plix(O, ss
A goal of D'Souza's research into bioplastic packaging materials is the creation of new products that
match or surpass the performance of conventional plastics, cardboard, paper coatings and foams.
Biocoatings for the paper packaging in items such as military-grade Meals Ready-to-Eat (MREs), for
example, could lead to longer product shelf life while also breaking down in a month or so under high-
temperature composting. Or they would decompose naturally within a year in standard landfills, leaving only
carbon and hydrogen - basically soil.
"This is an important step as we aim to create even stronger, more efficient, cost effective and environ-
mentally friendly products," D'Souza says. "We already are working to develop bio-engineered products
that are structurally sound enough to use as biodegradable packaging but also can be used in medical and
building materials. These products are based on completely renewable resources.
"This means in the future we could have materials that wouldn't consume more landfill space, while
enhancing our agricultural base, which would help farmers thrive."
: ' ,Do ok;, "tur fers such as jute, hemp and kenaf are
, ,. ,i ., i , t-. Nandika D'Souza uses to make eco-conscious bioplastics.
24 2008 UNT RESEARCH
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University of North Texas. UNT Research, Volume 17, 2008, periodical, 2008; Denton, Texas. (digital.library.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metadc115031/m1/24/: accessed October 19, 2017), University of North Texas Libraries, Digital Library, digital.library.unt.edu; crediting University Relations, Communications & Marketing department for UNT.