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SeaLive working to eliminate plastic from the oceans

​The SeaLive project is developing 100% bio-based, recyclable, and/or biodegradable plastics from the starches in microalgae. The goal? To reduce the amount of plastic pollution in our oceans and on land.

Published on 17 February 2020

​Biodegradable plastic made from biomass is a good thing. And plastic made from non-food biomass is even better. In research under the 48-month European SeaLive project that recently kicked off, CEA Tech is helping to develop just such a plastic. The project aims to reduce the plastic pollution in our oceans and waterways.

As a member of the project consortium, CEA Tech, via its regional office in the South of France, will be tasked with producing the bio-based raw material that will ultimately be transformed into a plastic resin by other partners. To do so, CEA scientists at the regional office's bioprocesses and microalgae platform went looking for a non-food source of biomass. And they found it in the ocean! Microalgae can be used to produce sugars and oils that contain substances that can then be transformed by chemical or biotechnological processes, making them an ideal solution. Plus, no food crops–or even farmland–are required. Another advantage is that the molecules in the algae starches are compatible with melt phase transformation processes.

The first step was to select the best varieties of algae and optimize the growing conditions (light, addition of CO2, etc.). The scientists developed a laboratory-scale production method inspired by wastewater treatment processes to separate the algae from the growing medium. The method will be tailored to each target application on a case-by-case basis before it is scaled up to a pilot plant. The project is off to a good start!

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