Chinese scientists have developed “super tough” green materials from imitation shells.

Plastic products bring convenience to people’s lives, but hard-to-degrade plastic waste can adversely affect the ecology. Recently, the Chinese University of Science and Technology, Yan Shuhong academician team inspired by natural shells to develop a new type of thin film material, in terms of strength, toughness, light transmission and other aspects show far more than the mechanical and optical properties of traditional plastics, buried in the soil for about two months can be pollution-free degradation, is expected to become flexible electronic devices and other fields of ideal materials.

Shell is a kind of natural material with excellent performance, which is made of “brick-mud” structure layer by layer. Recently, using two natural components, nano clay sheet and bacterial cellulose, the team successfully constructed a shell-like layer structure of “brick-fiber”, and developed a high-performance composite film material using aerosol-assisted biosynthesis.

“Simply put, bacterial cellulose is a substance secreted by bacteria after they ‘eat’ glucose, which is thin and looks like a rope.” Research team member, China University of Science and Technology postdoctoral tube Qingfang said, and then it is combined with making flaky clay, as if “with a rope net to tie a layer of brick”, formed a strong performance of the new material.

Experiments show that the strength of this new film material reaches 482 megapa, which is more than six times that of commercial plastic film. Good flexibility, can be folded into various shapes, and then expanded without significant damage. The new material also has excellent light transmission, achieving over 73% high transparency and more than 80% high optical fog within the visible light range of the human eye.

“Like the effect of wool glass, which allows light to come in without glare, this ‘uniformity’ is important for making devices such as mobile phone screens.” Guan Qingfang said.

Traditional plastic films can easily soften and deform at high temperatures, compared to this new material with excellent thermal stability, with a change in size of only three parts per million for every 100 degrees Celsius change, and still maintaining structural and performance stability at 250 degrees Celsius.

What’s more, the unique raw material composition makes this new material green and pollution-free throughout its life cycle, and bacterial cellulose degrades naturally in the soil for about two months.

The findings were recently published in Substances, an academic journal of the Cell Publishing Group. It is understood that due to the advantages of high performance, low cost, simple process, this new material in flexible electronic devices, new displays, photoelectronic conversion and other fields are very competitive. At present, the scientific research team is actively promoting the application and industrialization.