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Lund scientist creates new plastic from molecule that makes faeces smell

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redfish    558



A scientist at Lund University has developed a new sustainable plastic based on indole, the aromatic unit that makes human faeces smell.
Indole can be produced by several bacteria, occurs naturally in human faeces and has a strong faecal odour. 
But Baozhong Zhang, associate professor at Lund's Centre for Analysis and Synthesis, said that the new biopolyester his PhD student Ping Wang had created was totally odourless. 
"Once you make this into a plastic, it changes completely and it doesn't have any smell," he told The Local.

Zhang said he had brought Ping Wang to Lund from northern China to help him extend the search for new, sustainable plastics, and decided to test indole as a complex aromatic unit suitable to replace the benzene in PET, the substance used to make plastic bottles. 


He and Wang discovered that the resulting polyester was in many ways superior to PET, able to withstand higher temperatures and to be recycled endlessly, meaning it could be used for plastic coffee cups and even, if plans to increase its melting point are successful, for kettles or teapots. 


While indole is present in faeces, this does not mean municipal sewage plants will become the plastic factories of the future. Zhang said he did not know how the substance could be produced on a large scale. 


"We know that indole can be made from various resources in nature, it can be made from amino acids, from some plants, but the conversion from biomass to indole, this is not our work," he said.  


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