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Category: News

Non-toxic, Bioseniatic™ PHBHHx-based Filament for 3D Printing of Fused Deposition Models Developed at UGA New Materials Institute

FDM prints of a deformed domestic cat skull using PLA- (left) and PHBHHx- (right) based filaments. Photo by UGA/Brad Gilleland
FDM prints of a deformed domestic cat skull using PLA- (left) and PHBHHx- (right) based filaments. Photo by UGA/Brad Gilleland

Manuscript documenting study nominated for award

A non-toxic, biologically degradable 3D filament developed for Fused Deposition Modeling (FDM) had superior degradation and comparable precision in printing instructional and clinical medical specimens, when compared to samples from a conventional 3D filament, according to a study from the University of Georgia New Materials Institute. Additionally, the manuscript to document the study, “A Biologically Degradable and Bioseniatic™ Feedstock for the High-Quality 3D Printing of Medical Illustrations,” has been nominated for the 2024 Literary Award from the Association of Medical Illustrators. The award will be presented later this summer at the group’s annual conference.

The filament, developed by a team at the UGA New Materials Institute, is made from a poly(3-hydroxybutyrate-co-3-hydroxyhexanoate), or PHBHHx, material. Printed cat vertebra, a skull bone, and an aortic arch cast from the PHBHHx-based filament had comparable surface quality when compared to conventional materials. The medical illustrations used to print the samples were designed by co-author Brad Gilleland, a medical illustrator in the Educational Resources Center in the College of Veterinary Medicine, who is a member of the Association of Medical Illustrators.

Samples of the PHBHHx-based extrudates degraded rapidly under industrial composting conditions, in under two months with no visible polymer remaining. Respirometry studies conducted by the UGA New Materials Institute’s Bioseniatic℠ Laboratory found the PHBHHx-based filament met the criteria for it to be described as a Bioseniatic™ material, achieving greater than 90% mineralization within 32 days in industrial composting conditions. No micronized plastic particles larger than 10 microns were formed during biodegradation, per Raman microscopy, and an earthworm study found the PHBHHx filament was nontoxic to Eisenia fetida.

“A Biologically Degradable and Bioseniatic Feedstock for the High-Quality 3D Printing of Medical Illustrations” was published recently in the Journal of Biocommunication, 47(2),  https://doi.org/10.5210/jbc.v47i2.13246. Additional co-authors on the study are Joshua C. Bledsoe, Austin F. Wright, Evan M. White, Grant H. Crane, Christopher B. Herron, Jason J. Locklin and Branson W. Ritchie. Their work was funded in part by a grant from the RWDC Environmental Stewardship Foundation.

The UGA New Materials Institute is committed to preventing waste through the design of materials and systems that adhere to Green Engineering principles. The Institute partners with industry and businesses to design materials for their use that are bio-based, fully biodegradable, or completely recyclable, and safe for people, animals and our planet. In addition, it works with businesses, governments, foundations and other organizations to redesign systems so that they generate less waste and promote circularity in materials management. The New Materials Institute is also shaping the future by training the next generation of scientists and engineers on the importance of considering Green Engineering design principles in everything they do. For more information, visit www.newmaterials.uga.edu.

Program to recycle food waste, other organic materials may expand in Athens

Assembly of the steel roll carts at the UGA New Materials Institute in late January. From left:  
Mira Ngoc Le, Michael Kandefer, Shawn Wallbillich and Austin Wright. Photo by Evan M. White
Assembly of the steel roll carts at the UGA New Materials Institute in late January. From left: Mira Ngoc Le, Michael Kandefer, Shawn Wallbillich and Austin Wright. Photo by Evan M. White

Athens-Clarke County is contemplating continuation and expansion of a program for curbside pickup of food waste and other organic materials that can be composted instead of landfilled, based on recent success with a pilot program conducted in partnership with the UGA New Materials Institute and funded by the Walmart Foundation.

For more information on the pilot program’s success, read this recent story from The Flagpole.

UGA New Materials Institute tests biodegradation of new thermoplastic polyurethane

A new biodegradable thermoplastic polyurethane (TPU) could help reduce the environmental footprint of soft, durable plastics used in footwear, floor mats, and other applications for TPUs.

The biodegradation of the new material was validated by the University of Georgia New Materials Institute. The TPU was developed by researchers from the University of California San Diego, which modified a polymer from the BASF Corporation. The team’s collaboration was just published in Nature Communications.

Live bacterial spores from a strain of Bacillus subtilis were incorporated into the new TPU by mixing the spores and TPU pellets in a plastic extruder, melting the ingredients to 135 degrees Celsius and then extruding the material as thin strips of plastic. To assess the TPU’s ability to compost, the plastic strips underwent respirometry testing at the New Materials Institute’s Bioseniatic℠ Laboratory in both microbially active and sterile compost environments. The researchers found that, regardless of their environmental conditions, the strips achieved greater than 90% disintegration at 37 degrees Celsius in five months, validating its ability to biodegrade. Although the material did not meet compostability requirements at 42 degrees Celsius, as approximately 67–72% of the carbon from the TPU was metabolized to CO2 in 6 months of testing, this TPU has promising potentials for industrial composting applications.

Biocomposite thermoplastic polyurethanes containing evolved bacterial spores as living fillers to facilitate polymer disintegration” was recently published online by Nature Communications.  The co-authors are Han Sol Kim, Myung Hyun Noh, Dabika Datta, Hyun Gyu Lim, Ethan Smiggs, Adam M. Frist and Jonathan K. Pokorski, of the University of California San Diego; Evan M. White, Michael V. Kandefer, Austin F. Wright and Jason J. Locklin, of the University of Georgia; and Md Arifur Rahman, of the BASF Corporation.

Their work was supported by the U.S. Department of Energy’s Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy and Advanced Manufacturing Office (DE-EE0009296); UC San Diego Materials Research Science and Engineering Center (MRSEC) and the National Science Foundation (DMR-2011924).

For a complete press release, click here.

ACC, UGA team up to compost

Fans dispose of trash in organized bins at Foley Field during a zero waste initiative in 2023. (Photo by Chamberlain Smith/UGA)
Fans dispose of trash in organized bins at Foley Field during a zero waste initiative at the first game of the baseball series against Arkansas.

In late January, nearly 400 steel trash cans appeared at the ends of driveways in Athens’ Normaltown, Boulevard and Cobbham neighborhoods, attracting neighbors’ curiosity. 

The bins advertised the launch of a compost pilot program jointly conducted by the Athens-Clarke County Solid Waste Department and the University of Georgia’s New Materials Institute, a consortium of UGA experts in green engineering. Funded by a Walmart Foundation grant, the program allows participants to dispose of compostable materials and food scraps in steel bins that are emptied once a week by ACC Solid Waste. 

Composting—the recycling of organic matter like food waste—can play a critical role in a community’s sustainability efforts, said Evan White, an assistant research scientist faculty member who leads UGA’s participation in the pilot program.  

“Food waste is the No. 1 contributor to landfill waste—about 25%,” White said. “Composting produces a better environmental outcome and expands the lifecycle of the landfill.” 

Importantly, he noted, every one pound of food scraps composted saves about one pound of carbon dioxide emitted from landfills. The pilot program’s participants have been deeply engaged, both participating in weekly composting and completing surveys from ACC to evaluate their experiences. 

Jenna Jambeck named 2024 SEC Professor of the Year

Jenna Jambeck, Georgia Athletic Association Distinguished Professor of Environmental Engineering at the University of Georgia, was recently named the 2024 SEC Professor of the Year for her decades of work investigating the global scale of plastic pollution and galvanizing efforts to address solid waste and marine debris.

Athens-Clarke County, University of Georgia seek 400 local residences for study on curbside pickup of food scraps

The Athens-Clarke County Solid Waste Department and the University of Georgia New Materials Institute are looking for up to 400 households in Athens to test their new Residential Compost Pilot Project, which will be deployed in February and end in early May.

Residents in the Normaltown and Boulevard communities are eligible to register for participation in the study, which tests a residential curbside food scrap collection program. In addition, multiple food scrap drop-off locations will service the collection zone for all residents. ACC will not assess additional collection fees to the homes that participate in the pilot project.

“More than one-fifth of all landfilled garbage is food waste, much of which is generated in our homes.”

Evan White, a co-investigator on the project team.

“More than one-fifth of all landfilled garbage is food waste, much of which is generated in our homes,” said Evan White, a co-investigator on the project team. “Only one-fifth of landfills in the U.S. currently collect methane for energy production. So, diverting food scraps to facilities that recycle these scraps into compost, along with other organic materials, is an easy way for families to reduce their carbon footprint. ACC is selecting single-family homes, which represent more than half of the U.S. population.” White serves as director of the UGA New Material Institute’s Bioseniatic SM Laboratory, which studies how materials degrade in various environments, like landfills, industrial composting sites and municipal wastewater treatment plants.

Methane is the primary gas produced from landfilled food waste. While it lives in Earth’s atmosphere for a shorter time than carbon dioxide, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency estimates that methane is 28 times more effective than carbon dioxideat trapping heat in the atmosphere. The International Energy Agency says methane is responsible for about 30% of the rise in global temperatures since the start of the industrial revolution.

“The ACC Solid Waste Department is excited to participate in this pilot project,” said Suki Janssen, department director. “Our hope is to craft a residential program for the Athens community with the lessons learned from this project.”

The company will temporarily provide participating homes with a metal wheely bin designed to be lifted—or “tipped”—by existing collection truck lifts, facilitating easy collection for haulers and familiar routine curbside pickup for homeowners. The company will service all home collection bins weekly during the study period.

In keeping with the pilot program’s focus on recycling, the company designed all the bins to have a recycling or composting end-of-life and to reduce odors and access by pests. The company selected metal as a material for the residential pickup bins to avoid generating microplastics during in-service use, which occurs with environmentally persistent plastic garbage bins as they degrade.  The company purchased the metal cans from U.S. steel manufacturers Behrns Manufacturing (www.behrens.com), located in Excelsior, Minnesota, and had them fabricated to adapt to ACC’s automated lift trucks by Dye Sheet Metal (http://www.dye-sheet-metal.com) of Bogart, Georgia.

In addition to the curbside collection program, the company will place several larger solar-powered autonomous composting bins at drop-off sites in the two communities, making them accessible to all residents. The company will position these solar-powered units, designed by faculty at the New Materials Institute, where curbside pickup is not possible. At the end of their service life, most of their mass (excluding electronics) can be composted, depositing their carbon into the composted soil.

“Our findings will help Athens and other cities understand the viability of such a program, the demand for organics recycling, and how to navigate the collection logistics,” said White.

The pilot program is part of a two-year study, funded by the Walmart Foundation, aimed at improving circular systems related to the collection, recovery and management of organics waste. ACC Solid Waste will manage this portion of the study, while the New Materials Institute team will analyze the collection data.

Other UGA members of the study team include Jason Locklin, director of the New Materials Institute, and head of the Department of Chemistry; Jenna Jambeck, the Georgia Athletic Association Distinguished Professor in Environmental Engineering and lead of the Circularity Informatics Lab; and Branson W. Ritchie, Distinguished Research Professor, director of technology development and implementation for the Institute, and co-director of the Infectious Diseases Laboratory.

To sign up for the program, visit www.accgov.com/composttrial. Registration for curbside service will end when 400 residences within the service area have committed to participate.

Writer/contact: kygilmor@uga.edu or emwhite@uga.edu.

Jambeck named Regents’ Professor

Jenna Jambeck
Jenna Jambeck, associate director of the UGA New Materials Institute, has been named a Regents’ Professor, which is the highest professorial recognition awarded by the Georgia Board of Regents.

Jenna Jambeck has been named a Regents’ Professor in recognition of the national and international reach of her work in environmental engineering. Regents’ professorships are bestowed by the Board of Regents of the University System of Georgia and are the highest professorial recognition in the state’s system of public colleges and universities.

UGA New Materials Institute to conduct 5 CB2 projects in 2023

Researchers and students from the University of Georgia New Materials Institute will participate in five sustainably-related projects funded by the Center for Bioplastics and Biocomposites, or CB2, for 2023.

The projects were selected by CB2’s Industry Advisory Board at its fall meeting held in November in Atlanta. The IAB meets twice a year for updates on existing research projects and to develop new projects for future funding.

Continuing projects

In 2023, UGA NMI research teams will continue their involvement in two existing projects:

Logo for CB2

The Little-Known Nylon: Nylon 59 Properties — Principal Investigators:

Eric Cochran, the CB2 Site Director for Iowa State University, and the Mary Jane Skogen Hagenson & Randy L. Hagenson Professor in the Department of Chemical and Biological Engineering within the College of Engineering;

and Jason Locklin, CB2 Site Director for UGA, and Director of the UGA NMI. Locklin is also a Distinguished Faculty Scholar in the College of Engineering, where he is a Professor of BioChemical Engineering. Additionally, he serves as a Professor in the Department of Chemistry within the Franklin College of Arts and Sciences.

Investigation of the Marine Degradability of Polymers of Interest to IAB Members — Principal Investigators:

Branson W. Ritchie, Director of Technology Development & Implementation for the UGA NMI, a Distinguished Research Professor, and Director of the UGA Infectious Diseases Laboratory.

New projects

New projects involving UGA NMI teams in 2023 are:

Bio-based Coatings for High-Performance Flexible Paper Packaging Application — Principal Investigators:

Suraj Sharma, Professor of Textiles, Merchandising and Interiors in the College of Family and Consumer Sciences;

and Sudhagar Mani, Professor of Chemical, Materials, and Biomedical Engineering in the College of Engineering.

Water Barrier Mechanisms in Bio-based Polymers — Principal Investigators:

Andriy Voronov, Professor of Coatings and Polymeric Materials at North Dakota State University;

and Sergiy Minko, the Georgia Power Professor of Fiber and Polymer Science, Department of Textiles, Merchandising and Interiors, within the College of Family and Consumer Sciences; and, Professor in the Department of Chemistry within the Franklin College of Arts and Sciences.

Utilizing Hemp Hurd. Improving Hemp Hurd Performance as Filler in Plastic Manufacturing — Principal Investigators:

Ali Amiri, Assistant Professor of Practice in the Department of Mechanical Engineering at NDSU;

Chad Ulven, a Professor and Interim Chair of the Department of Mechanical Engineering at NDSU;

Breeanna Urbanowicz, Assistant Professor, Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology in the Franklin College of Arts and Sciences, and a member of the Complex Carbohydrate Research Center;

and, Maria Peña, Associate Research Scientist, Complex Carbohydrate Research Center.

About CB2

CB2 is an Industry-University Cooperative Research Center and is funded, in part, through the National Science Foundation. Representatives from CB2’s industry partners comprise an Industry Advisory Board that meets twice a year to review progress on current projects and, to pitch and assess new proposals. IAB members share in the research and development costs, as well as in the intellectual property; additionally, IAB representatives work directly with university faculty, graduate students and undergraduate students to develop technologies that can be rapidly adopted by industry. The program provides hands-on training while ensuring funds and projects are focused on rapid development of tools needed by industry to further sustainability goals. Students and university researchers work under the mentorship of industry scientists and product developers from some of the biggest names in industry: AmazonFordJohn DeereADMKimberly-Clark3MBASFBoehringer IngelheimSherwin-WilliamsAkzoNobel, Danimer ScientificNatureWorksRWDC Industries, and Avery Dennison, among others. Projects are funded through IAB membership fees, with Center/Site support funding provided by the NSF. CB2’s four search sites are located at North Dakota State UniversityIowa State UniversityWashington State University, and the University of Georgia.

For more information about CB2, visit https://cb2center.org/home.