New hydrogel from forestry and fishing waste
Credits: Biopolymer chemist Lingyun Chen works in her lab at the U of A. Chen and her team are developing a hydrogel made from waste byproducts like crab shells and wood chips that can repair itself when torn and could find uses in products like contact lenses or pill capsules. (Photo: Sean Townsend)
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New Hydrogel from Forestry and Fishing Waste – University of Alberta

The researchers from the University of Alberta have created a new material, a new hydrogel capable of repairing itself when torn, that could help in replacing products that are petroleum-based.

This new material is made from the materials that are usually discarded by the fishing and forest industries. A new hydrogel, created from these waste materials, could be a substitute for petroleum products used in a number of biomedical applications from pill capsules to contact lenses.

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A professor at the University of Alberta who specializes in biopolymer chemistry, Lingyun Chen, who participated in the development of the product, made from the shells of crustaceans and spruce trees explained that ” To create a material that can be used as artificial cartilage was the intention.”

She said, “There is also the possibility of using our hydrogel system to make tiny nanobeads, that could be used in treating specific tissues or organs through targeted drug delivery system. Also, in nature, there are many biopolymers found and these can be made into films and fibers.”

She added “This has enormous potential as many of them can be used to replace petroleum in a number of products like adsorbents for water treatment or water filtration systems, food packaging, and more. To transform and use these materials, the hydrogel is just one example.”

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In a study published recently in Carbohydrate Polymers, Chen and her colleagues explained the new hydrogel and how is it capable of repairing itself when torn.

She explained, ” As the hydrogel is tough, stretchable and can recover its shape when compressed, we were able to demonstrate that it has good mechanical properties.”

This work suggested that it could be used in a number of biomedical applications ranging from drug delivery to contact lenses as the new technology has little toxicity to cell cultures.

Chen believes that this showed that a little imagination can go a long way in making industries more sustainable, though much work still needs to be done.

She added, “We found our hydrogel having interesting properties as these byproducts have limited use. Sometimes, the things that we consider to be garbage, could have applications in other areas and potentially make other industries(in this care the fishing and forest industry) less wasteful, and this work certainly demonstrates this.”

The Government of Canada’s Office for Energy Research and Development’s Energy Innovation Program and the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada funded this study.


Editor’s Note: New hydrogel from forestry and fishing waste, Researchers create New hydrogel from forestry and fishing waste