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01st Dec 2021

Sperm is being used to create eco-friendly plastic

Kieran Galpin


Could sperm save the planet?

Scientists in China have begun creating bio-degradable plastic from natural resources and it’s likely you either have this resource, or know someone who does.

Scientists at Tianjin University have discovered that plastic can actually be made from sperm – but don’t fear, lads in lab coats aren’t going to start mandating semen harvesting – at least not yet anyway.

This revolutionary development actually employs salmon sperm which is combined with a chemical from vegetable oil that binds it all together. The substance it creates is commonly known as hydrogel, which definitely sounds better then sperm plastic.

The hydrogel is then moulded into various shapes and then freeze-dried to solidify the mixture and remove moisture. So far, the scientists have made a cup, puzzle pieces and a DNA molecule.

This landmark moment has also opened the door to other avenues of acquiring the DNA needed. Since DNA makes up every living thing on the planet, this new plastic can theoretically be made from waste material, algae and even bacteria.

Biodegradable plastic is nothing new but previous methods require an enormous amount of energy and are fairly difficult to recycle.

Tianjin University’s new method produces 97 per cent fewer carbon emissions that polystyrene plastics, scientists claim.

However, the material’s biggest advantage is also a disadvantage – as items made from the material need to be kept dry. When they become wet, the plastic returns to its hydrogel form, which makes it amazing to recycle but awful if you want the plastic to be used en-mass.

Waterproof coatings could certainly be added but this would make the hydrogel more difficult to recycle. While the hydrogel could be used for items required to be kept dry – like electronics – more work is needed to completely fool-proof the design.

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