Researchers hope to solve the problem of pollution of the world’s oceans with the help of materials that are safer for the environment.
Scientists at the University of California San Diego have created a polyurethane foam polymer that completely degrades in seawater in a short time. Phys.org reports.
The researchers conducted a series of tests on their biodegradable polyurethane materials, which are currently used as foam in biodegradable shoes.
The team found that marine micro-fauna of fungi and bacteria colonize the polyurethane foam and degrade the polymer into its original chemicals, which the creatures then consume as nutrients.
These studies show that plastic-eating micro-organisms are common in natural marine environments.
“Plastic waste in the ocean breaks down into microplastics. This has become a huge environmental problem. We have proven that it is possible to produce high-performance polymer products that decompose in water, but turn not into microplastics, but into food for microorganisms,” said Steven Mayfield, professor at the School of Biological Sciences and director of the California Center for Algae Biotechnology.