Biomass as a source of functional polymeric materials
Polimery 2014, No 5, 383
The article is a summary of a lecture presented at the Conference „Polymeric Materials — Pomerania-Plast 2013”, 4—7.06.2013, Międzyzdroje, Poland, which gave an overview of the achievements of researchers associated with the Institute of Biopolymers and Chemical Fibres as well as their projects partners, related to the topic. The article does not describe the issue in a comprehensive manner, but merely indicates the possible applications of biomass, often mistakenly recognized as a waste having only fuel value. Cellulose is the most widely investigated polymer derived from plant biomass. Plants that are most often used in the production of cellulose fibres include: cotton, jute, agave, flax and hemp. Current research indicate the possibility for extraction of natural cellulose fibres with properties suitable for textile and paper industries, as a component of composite materials as well as for other industrial applications from cereal straws, banana and pineapple leaves, coconut shells, corn stalks and husks or from nettle. Keratin is an example of a polymer derived from animal biomass. Chicken feathers are the cheapest raw material for obtaining that protein due to their high keratin content (about 90—95 %) and high availability. Suitable processed feathers can be successfully used as a filler in composite materials with improved properties of acoustic and thermal insulation. Keratin has fire-retardant properties and the composition of its exhaust gases is similar to that produced by combustion of fuels belonging to the biomass group. Another interesting polymers derived from renewable sources are chitin and chitosan. The most common source of these polymers are marine crustaceans. They are also produced by fungi or bacteria in the course of microbial fermentation. Chitosan can be applied in waste water treatment, cosmetics, pharmaceuticals or for the production of haemostatic medical dressings, accelerating wound healing process.
Key words: biomass, cellulose fibres, galactoglucomannans, keratin, chitosan