The world is moving toward a time when food-makers can expect to see significant increases in plant- based food production.
A major challenge for the industry is the high cost of manufacturing, which has been the main obstacle for plant-grown foods to gain widespread acceptance.
Now, scientists from a new startup, Protolabs, have demonstrated that a new process for manufacturing plant-derived materials using a flexible polymer could reduce the cost of production for food products.
Protolabs was founded by an MIT graduate student, James Bien, who is currently based at the University of Pittsburgh.
The company is currently in the midst of a three-year pilot program to create a flexible silicone mold with a similar mechanical properties to that used in the production of other flexible polymer materials, such as polyurethane.
The company’s process uses a process called “bonding”, which involves the polymer’s molecules interacting with each other, creating a bond.
This bond is then formed into the polymer matrix, which can then be mechanically bonded to other polymers.
Bonding creates a bond that is stronger than that of a polymer that has been processed on a traditional process, meaning the polymer has a much higher strength.
Using Protolab’s process, which involves bonding of the polymer to a polymer matrix at the molecular level, researchers at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) managed to produce polyuretha, which is one of the most promising plant- derived foodstuffs.
“We have shown that the polymer bonds to the polymers,” said Bien.
“The polymer can be molded into a large variety of shapes and sizes and is very flexible.
It’s a really exciting thing that we can do at this point.”
The key to the process is that the plastic used for the matrix is made of an organic compound called phenol, which contains a variety of molecular bonds.
This organic compound is used to make the polymer and it’s also found in some plants.
When the polymer is bonded to the polymer substrate, the phenol bonds are broken and it forms a new bond.
As the polymer matures, the process can then allow the polymer-based matrix to be used as a mold for other types of plastic.
Although it’s a new technology, the researchers believe it could be used to produce food products that are much more sustainable than conventional processes.
In addition to reducing the amount of plastic used in food packaging, the new process could also reduce the amount that needs to be processed and made, Bien said.
According to Bien and the other researchers involved in the project, they’ve already seen promising results with plant-produced foodstamps, which include bread, pasta, and other products.
“We’ve seen significant improvements in the quality of our product when we use our molding method,” Bien told New Scientist.
While the researchers were able to produce plastic that is more durable than plastic made by traditional processes, the key to producing food-grade food is the use of biodegradable materials, which could be much easier to do if this new process can be replicated for other plastics.
For more information, see http://www.newser.com/health/articles/2015/09/03/the-new-silicone-moldings-technology-promises-to-boost-the-growth-of-plant-based-foods