BRISBANE, AUSTRALIA — Researchers at an Australian university hope to turn plant waste into wads of cash.
Researchers at the Australian Institute for Bioengineering and Nanotechnology (AIBN), a specialist unit at the Brisbane-based University of Queensland, are investigating an additional use for sugar cane plants.
Typically, sugar cane juice for sugar production is derived from the stem and the plant’s leaves are discarded. But AIBN researchers are examining how they can use the leaves to produce bioplastics.
AIBN researchers are developing ways to use the leaves to engineer a bioplastic.
“The concept is that we have to take advantage of as much of our natural resources as possible and try to add value to parts of plants that would not normally be used. The research is delivering promising results,” Speight said.
Under the leadership of Professor Lars Nielsen, the AIBN researchers are also developing ways to make sustainable banknotes and other polypropylene products from bioderived feedstocks. Nielsen received Australian Research Council funding of A$478,284 and has begun work with Altona, Victoria-based Dow Chemical (Australia) Ltd. on a three-year project to develop bioderived feedstocks.
“The chemical industry recognizes limited supply and a need to reduce carbon emissions,” Nielsen said. “Microbes can produce green chemicals but efficiencies are often low. This project will develop microbes and improve the fermentative processes for producing plastic precursors from sugar cane.”