Master’s Project: Insect protein resource for plastic production

Global plastic production is increasing with growing population and packaging demands. Plastic packaging production is responsible for nearly half of all plastic produced in EU. Currently there are no easy ways to recycle plastic mainly due to existence of multiple types of plastics that are not sorted properly. This leads to a reality that even in developed economies the majority of plastic packaging is not recycled but instead dumped, landfilled or in best case incinerated. While it is important to continue the work towards better plastic waste source-segregation, finding a sustainable and renewable raw material for plastic production is equally important.

This project will investigate extraction methods with aim to produce protein-based plastic from organic waste which was fed to fly larvae. Using black soldier fly (BSF) larvae protein derived from food waste eliminates the competition with food production and thus has potential to become a sustainable and renewable raw material for plastic production industry. BSF larvae are particularly efficient in consuming organic material and converting it into their own biomass due to their biology. The larvae can convert upwards of 30% of organic fraction in the waste to their own biomass. Larvae crude protein will be used as a basis for plastic development. Technologies to obtain plastics from proteins are being developed for multiple substrates. While plant protein feasibility studies for plastic production have been performed, only an initial testing of the crude extract of the larvae have been carried out and confirmed that it could be possible to produce plastic. An efficient and reliable extraction method for proteins and chitin of black soldier fly larvae will be developed in this project. The extract will be evaluated as raw material for plastic production.

Deadline for application: 2020-01-01
This is a 30 hp master’s project for students with a background in chemistry, materials science and environmental engineering. This is a collaboration project between KTH and SLU Uppsala, but will be performed at KTH.

Please contact: Evgheni Ermolaev, Researcher Environmental Engineering SLU (evgheni.ermolaev@slu.se) or Mikael Hedenqvist, Professor Polymeric Materials KTH (mikaelhe@kth.se)

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