Aqueous Processing of Biodegradable Materials from Renewable Resources

EPA Grant Number: R826117
Title: Aqueous Processing of Biodegradable Materials from Renewable Resources
Investigators: McCarthy, Stephen P.
Current Investigators: McCarthy, Stephen P. , Koroskenyi, Balint , Zhang, Jinwen
Institution: University of Massachusetts - Lowell
Current Institution: University of Massachusetts - Lowell
EPA Project Officer: Richards, April
Project Period: November 1, 1997 through October 31, 2000 (Extended to December 31, 2001)
Project Amount: $300,004
RFA: Technology for a Sustainable Environment (1997) RFA Text |  Recipients Lists
Research Category: Nanotechnology , Sustainability , Pollution Prevention/Sustainable Development


The objective of this project is to improve the aqueous processing and properties of biodegradable materials derived from naturally available, abundant raw materials, such as chitin, cellulose, konjac, starch, and pullulan which are inherently biodegradable and environmentally friendly. The main focus will be on finding potential alternatives for the petroleum based conventional polymeric materials which are a major concern for environmental pollution today. Although there has been some work in development of first generation products, these products fail to meet performance standards expected by today's consumer. Also this investigation will improve the conversion processes through water based technologies to cause minimum impact on the environment in terms of decreased utilization of harmful chemicals, energy, water etc.


Polysaccharides possess reasonable physical properties which can be exploited in a number of applications. Their structure allows them to be chemically modified in such a manner that they can become water soluble. In this state they can be converted into the desired form for use as films, fibers, coatings, and foams using aqueous processing techniques. However once the products are obtained, there is a desire for water resistance to be useful in many application. Again their ability to readily undergo chemical reactions can be taken advantage of to impart this quality. In addition this study will utilize the combination of biodegradable polyesters in conjunction with polysaccharides.

Expected Results:

One of the major consumption areas of synthetic polymers is packaging. Typically, transparent films, coatings and foams are used in huge quantities and are not biodegradable and they constitute a high percentage of the plastics in municipal waste. Due to the nature of thin films and packaging, much of this cannot be recycled without an economic and environmental burden when a total life cycle analysis is performed. The present study proposes to obtain such useful products from renewable resources in order to substitute conventional petroleum based, non-biodegradable, synthetic polymers. It is expected that production of intermediate raw materials like film and foam for such applications eventually will be economically feasible. These water soluble modified polysaccharides will include chitosan, chitosan derivatives, cellulose acetate derivatives, starch acetate derivatives, konjac, and pullulan. The goal of this study is to make use of naturally available raw materials and attempt to replace conventional polymers. The two main advantages are, these materials come from renewable resources and upon disposable they will decompose into carbon dioxide and water like most natural materials by natural processes causing no harm to environment.

Publications and Presentations:

Publications have been submitted on this project: View all 4 publications for this project

Journal Articles:

Journal Articles have been submitted on this project: View all 2 journal articles for this project

Supplemental Keywords:

risk management, pollution prevention, green chemistry, life-cycle analysis, alternatives, sustainable development, clean technologies, innovative technologies, renewable, waste reduction, waste minimization, environmentally conscious manufacturing., RFA, Scientific Discipline, Sustainable Industry/Business, Sustainable Environment, Environmental Chemistry, Analytical Chemistry, Technology for Sustainable Environment, Biochemistry, cleaner production, environmentally conscious manufacturing, aqueous processing, alternative materials, konjac, biodegradable materials, innovative technology, polysaccairde, chitosan, plastics, water soluble, pollution prevention, polymer design, cellulose, green chemistry

Progress and Final Reports:

  • 1998
  • 1999 Progress Report
  • 2000
  • 2001
  • Final Report