A biodegradable packaging with botrytis control for the export grape, an intravenous antibacterial catheter, a new composite material made of rubber reinforced with nanoclays and nanocellulose, biodegradable tableware made from corn leaves, a wood and wax composite material that replaces a percentage of plastics in manufacturing processes, and a microbial fuel cell based on graphene, this last project together with the Materials Engineering of UdeC, are the research initiatives approved this second semester in UDT.

Innovation and Development from Biobío to Chile and the world

UDT is a research center of excellence that since its creation has been dedicated to applied science, developing knowledge and technologies based on the transformation of forest, agricultural or algal biomass. For example, the Biomaterials department has been working for more than a decade in biodegradable plastics, “UDT has extensive experience in the formulation, development and testing of laboratory, pilot and industrial scale of different bioplastics developed from renewable sources and with the ability to biodegrade themselves in composting conditions and agricultural soils. These materials will be increasingly required by companies and end consumers, which demand that packaging and single-use products are sustainable and friendly to the environment”, says Álvaro Maldonado, head of the UDT Biomaterials Department.

One of the awarded projects proposes to develop biodegradable packaging for the Chilean export table grape, which will also have active properties for the control of botrytis, a disease caused by fungi that affect the fruit during its transfer to the different target markets. The proposed solution includes the 3 types of products commonly used for the export of grapes: the “cluster bag”, which avoids the dehydration of the fruit; the “shirt bag”, which contains the grape and avoids weight loss thanks to a moisture-saturated environment, and the “generator for botrytis control”, which protects the grape from the pathogenic fungus. “These 3 products will be manufactured from biodegradable/compostable materials in accordance with the new trends and requirements of the target market of the Chilean fruit, which point towards sustainable materials and contribute to reduce the environmental pollution produced by traditional plastics”, says Maldonado.

The plastic products that are used to protect the export grape at present are NOT biodegradable and in addition, they all use sodium metabisulfite to control the botrytis. Sulfite additives (SO2) can have adverse effects on sensitive populations, such as dermatitis, urticaria, abdominal pain, among others, and can also produce harmful symptoms in grape clusters such as spots or microcracks. The solution offered by UDT is a biodegradable packaging with active functional properties, an innovative product worldwide and which proposes an alternative to the use of sulfites using a natural active ingredient that acts by diffusion and was developed by UDT.

The second project related to degradable bioplastics seeks to evaluate the feasibility of producing eco-dishes based on by-products from the agricultural industry, specifically the husk of corncobs and/or vine leaves, abundant in the south-central zone of Chile, coated with biopolymers and dyed with natural dyes.

On the other hand, the investigation of elastomeric materials is a new line in UDT, which is consolidating rapidly; and in this context, Dr. Patricia Castaño was awarded a CONICYT PAI project, which aims to develop a rubber material reinforced with micro / nano structures of cellulose and/or clays that have greater resistance to abrasive wear and tea , valuable characteristics for the mining industry, and that these nano components can replace the typically used reinforcer, carbon black, which is a derivative of petroleum.

Another project approved, this time by the Committee of Biobio Regional Productive Development of CORFO is “Wood Pellet for Injection: Scaling its productive process and introduction to the market”; initiative that aims to replace, at least partially, fossil plastic for a sustainable product, a pellet composed of up to 80% wood and 20% of a low cost wax, which can be incorporated directly in plastic injection processes and that aims to replace between 20 and 30% of polyolefins currently used in our country.

List of approved projects:

  • FONDEF IDEA ID18I10132: Development of biodegradable packaging with active property for postharvest control of Botrytis cinerea, during the export of Chilean table grape. UDT / UdeC
  • FONDEF IDEA ID18I10337: Design of a microbial fuel cell prototype based on nano-structured graphene, capable of treating wastewater and generating electrical energy in the process. UDT / UdeC
  • CONICYT I7818010002 – Program of Attraction and Insertion of Advanced Human Capital, PAI, project named “Development of rubber compounds with cellulose microstructures and nanoclays for products of the national mining industry”. UDT / EST
  • CORFO R&D BUSINESS 2018 18IDAE-90529: Antibacterial central intravenous catheter (CVC) as a method of prevention against nosocomial infections associated with the use of CVC. UDT / Sylex Ltda.
  • CORFO – Innovation Voucher for Women Companies 2018 18VIPM-92564: Biodegradable tableware made from husk of corncobs and vine leaves. UDT / Orgánica SPA
  • CORFO – CALL FOR ENABLERS OF INNOVATION FOR REGIONAL SMEs BÍO-BÍO 18HIBIO-96961: Wood Pellet for Injection: Scaling its productive process and introduction to the market”. UDT / EST