LSU explores using sugar to make plastics
BATON ROUGE, La. (AP) — LSU AgCenter researchers are studying how to make plastics from a byproduct of sugar and say the development could give sugar cane farmers a stake in the plastics industry and reduce the environmental impact of manufacturing plastics.
Derek Dorman, an LSU AgCenter polymer scientist at the Audubon Sugar Institute, said aconitic acid found in cane and sweet sorghum juices is a potential source of biodegradable plastics.
"This acid can be formulated into polyester, or plastic. It is very versatile in terms of how it can be used," Dorman said.
Because aconitic acid can be harvested from plants, it has less environmental impact when synthesized into biodegradable polyester plastics, unlike plastics produced from crude oil. The acid is extractable from molasses, syrup or mud generated during syrup production.
Researchers at the Audubon Sugar Institute are studying how to synthesize nontoxic, biodegradable polyesters from aconitic acid as well as cinnamic acid and glycerol.
All are potential products of the sugar cane and biodiesel industries that can be used as structures in skin and bone-tissue engineering.