IPE In Media

  • 3D-Printable Glass is Made from Proteins and Biodegrades

    Researchers have modified amino acids and peptides and then coaxed it into a transparent glass. Here they demonstrate moulding it into sea-shell shapes.Credit: R.Xing et al./Science Advances (CC BY 4.0)

    Researchers have transformed amino acids and peptides — the building blocks of proteins — into glass, according to a study published in Science Advances1. Not only is the biomolecular glass transparent, but it can be 3D printed and cast in moulds. The paper suggests that the glass biodegrades pretty quickly, but wouldn’t be suitable for applications such as drinks bottles because the liquid would cause it to decompose.

    “Nobody ever tried this with biomaterials in the past,” says Jun Liu, a materials scientist at the University of Washington in Seattle. “It’s a good discovery.”

    Standard glass is made using inorganic molecules, mainly silicon dioxide. The ingredients are melted down at high temperatures and then rapidly cooled. Glass can be recycled easily, but despite this, a substantial amount ends up in landfill, where it can take thousands of years to break down.

    But amino acids are readily broken down by microorganisms, meaning that instead of sitting for years in a dump, the nutrients in biomolecular glass could, in principle, rejoin the ecosystem.

    “The development of renewable, benign and degradable materials is highly appealing for a sustainable future,” says Xuehai Yan, a co-author of the study and a chemist at the Chinese Academy of Sciences in Beijing.

    More information:

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