Japanese research team produces Euglena-based bioplastic

By Erin Voegele | January 18, 2013

Japanese researchers have developed a bioplastic material derived from the microorganism Euglena and compounds obtained from cashew nut shells. According to information released by Japan-based Advanced Low Carbon Technology Research and Development Program (ALCA), the resulting plastic contains 70 percent plant-derived components. The study was conducted as part of the development of low carbon technologies under the Japan Science and Technology Agency.

Euglena have are unicellular organisms that have characteristics of both plants and animals. They contain chloroplasts, which allow them to conduct photosynthesis like plants and algae.  They can also feed on other organisms, similar to how animals gain nourishment.

According to a statement released by the ALCA, the Euglena used by the research team produces paramylum, a polysaccharide that accumulates in the cell. The polysaccharide, a sugar, reacts with the fatty compounds derived from cashew nut shells to produce a biobased plastic material that is similar to petroleum-based plastic in terms of plasticity and heat resistance.

The team consisted of researchers from the National Institute of Advanced Industrial Science and Technology, NEC Corp., and Miyazaki University.