China successfully develops a new type of glass that is biodegradable and recyclable, with the aim of promoting sustainability in the economy

    Institute of Process Engineering

    19th March 2023 – (Beijing) A group of material scientists from China have successfully developed a biodegradable and recyclable form of glass that possesses a minimal environmental footprint. This innovation could significantly contribute towards achieving a sustainable economy if it is commercialised in the future.

    According to a study published on Saturday in the journal Science Advances, the scientists from the Institute of Process Engineering, which operates under the Chinese Academy of Sciences, have fabricated a range of eco-friendly glasses that originate from biological sources. They achieved this by utilizing biologically-derived amino acids or peptides and applying a classic industrial procedure known as heating-quenching.

    The scientists chemically modified the ends of these amino acids and peptides to form a super-cooled liquid before decomposition. The study suggests that this technique is practical since it stabilizes the molecules, making them more resistant to thermal instability.

    Glass is an essential component of modern society. However, the extensive use of non-biodegradable glass that cannot be naturally eliminated causes long-term environmental hazards. The challenge in manufacturing glass from biological sources is that these molecules tend to decompose quickly at high temperatures.

    The family of glasses fabricated by the Chinese researchers exhibit excellent glass-forming abilities and optical characteristics. They are also amenable to three-dimensional-printed additive manufacturing and mold casting.

    The concept of biomolecular glass is still in the laboratory stage. However, it has the potential to revolutionise green-life technology for a sustainable future, according to the researchers.