Centre for Sustainable Chemical Technologies

Plastic from sugar and carbon dioxide

Wed Jun 21 15:27:00 BST 2017

20170621_plastic_sugar_co2Some biodegradable plastics could in the future be made using sugar and carbon dioxide, replacing unsustainable plastics made from crude oil, following research by scientists from the CSCT.

  • Polycarbonate is used to make drinks bottles, lenses for glasses and in scratch-resistant coatings for phones, CDs and DVDs
  • Current manufacture processes for polycarbonate use BPA (banned from use in baby bottles) and highly toxic phosgene, used as a chemical weapon in World War One
  • CSCT scientists have made alternative polycarbonates from sugars and carbon dioxide in a new process that also uses low pressures and room temperature, making it cheaper and safer to produce
  • This new type of polycarbonate can be biodegraded back into carbon dioxide and sugar using enzymes from soil bacteria
  • This new plastic is bio-compatible so could in the future be used for medical implants or as scaffolds for growing replacement organs for transplant.


Polycarbonates from sugars offer a more sustainable alternative to traditional polycarbonate from BPA, however the process uses a highly toxic chemical called phosgene. Now scientists at the CSCT have developed a much safer, even more sustainable alternative which adds carbon dioxide to the sugar at low pressures and at room temperature.

Dr Antoine Buchard, CSCT's Whorrod Research Fellow, said: “With an ever-growing population, there is an increasing demand for plastics. This new plastic is a renewable alternative to fossil-fuel based polymers, potentially inexpensive, and, because it is biodegradable, will not contribute to growing ocean and landfill waste.

“Our process uses carbon dioxide instead of the highly toxic chemical phosgene, and produces a plastic that is free from BPA, so not only is the plastic safer, but the manufacture process is cleaner too.”

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