A new material known as vegan spider silk could replace single-use plastic. This substance completely decomposes and helps to tackle plastic pollution.
Researchers at the Cambridge University got inspired by spider silk to create the plant-based material. Spiders produce the protein silk fibre to make their webs and are known to withstand a great deal of force. Weight for weight, silk is stronger and much tougher than steel.
The researchers used soy protein to create the substance, mimicking spider silk's mechanical properties, including strength and stretchability. Its weak molecular bonds ensure that it can still break down easily.
This plastic alternative can completely decompose in household compost systems.
Dr. Tuomas Knowles, part of Cambridge's Yusuf Hamied Department of Chemistry, spoke to The Daily Telegraph about the project.
“Because all proteins are made of polypeptide chains, under the right conditions we can cause plant proteins to self-assemble just like spider silk.”Dr. Tuomas Knowles
Xampla, a company which main business is to create plant protein materials, is aiming to commercialize the product. Xampla will release sachets and capsules by the end of this year. The items will be used to make plastic-free dishwashing tablet wrappers and laundry capsules.
The vegan spider silk might also replace the microplastics found in liquids and lotions. The substance could be used to make high-rise escape ropes and nets, parachute cords, and hanging ladders from helicopters.