What's the Latest Development?
An Australian company has created a material, Zeoform, that resembles plastic -- and has been made into a number of forms, including furniture and eyeglass frames -- but is composed entirely of cellulose and water. The cellulose comes either from plants such as hemp or flax or from recycled paper or textile waste. They are "ground down with water, dried, then formed into fine pellets or sheets, and can be sprayed or formed" into shapes. The grinding and drying process is what makes Zeoform so durable, says CEO Alf Wheeler: "The fibers make a lot of contact with each other. Everywhere that happens, there is an opportunity for a hydrogen bond. That is where the materials science is."
What's the Big Idea?
Many different groups are on the hunt for plastics or plastic-like materials that leave little or no environmental footprint. Rather than become a manufacturing leader, the makers of Zeoform want to license their technology to others so that they can help improve on it. Wheeler points to potential job-creating opportunities: "There's a lot of paper-making towns with lots of unemployed people...All they need is some intellectual property and a relatively cheap retrofit to their mill, and they can put people back to work." The company has launched an Indiegogo campaign to raise funds for a "center of excellence showcase" to be held next year.
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