A University of Tokyo research group is set to collaborate with Mitsubishi Chemical Corp., Bridgestone Corp. (TYO:5108), Teijin Ltd. (TYO:3401) and Kureha Corp. (TYO:4023) on the development of a marine biodegradable biopolymer with multi-locking properties. Mitsubishi Chemical will be in charge of plastics, while Bridgestone, Teijin and Kureha handle tires, textiles and fishing nets, respectively. The research group at the University of Tokyo will then be proceeding on R&D that is focused on the issues common across these areas.
The challenge when it comes to biodegradable polymers lies in how to prevent deterioration while the product is still being used – it typically being difficult to create a material offering both degradability and durability. As such, the University of Tokyo research group has set out to develop a polymer that does not begin its path of biodegrading until it is in the presence of multiple stimuli.
Incorporating such multi-locking capabilities promises to allow for a combination of degradability and durability, which would in turn enable the creation of new polymers suited to more practical use. Simulation methods are to include ions, ultraviolet rays, oxygen and enzymes. If in plastic form, decomposition will be achievable at the high speed of approximately 60 days.
The university research group will be mobilizing experts in technical areas previously not engaged for biodegradability purposes, such as supramolecular chemistry, dynamic cross-linking and self-repair. The aim as such is to solve the degradability–durability issue with an approach differing from those to date, with the idea being to get companies in at the outset and proceed on development with real-world implementation at the heart of things.
By the time the project reaches its interim evaluation three years from now, aims are to get to the proof-of-concept stage and achieve a concept patent. Following that, the focus will shift to cost reduction, with participants looking at structure simplification and other such means more suited to use in actual products.