Not only bio sourcing is often more sustainable (not by essence, but because it comes with a renewable credential), it can also sometimes exceed the properties of other materials.
Let’s take a few examples starting with one that made a buzz in the recent weeks:
Graphene has been at the core of intensive research for the new generation of high performance materials for the last decade. In simple terms, graphene is a two-dimensional atomic crystal made up of carbon atoms arranged in a hexagonal lattice and is the thinnest and strongest compound ever discovered (between 100-300 times stronger than steel), but also the lightest material known (around 0,77 milligrams per square meter) while keeping flexibility and transparency. It is also impermeable to molecules, extremely electrically and thermally conductive and combines electrical and optical functionalities in an exceptional way. This wonder material is therefore considered disruptive with potential for a wide variety of technological applications, ranging from electronics to composite materials. Nevertheless its current high cost, especially when requiring pure single sheet grade, limits the full market deployment that its unpreceded properties would deserve.
Australian researchers from the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization CSIRO have recently made a breakthrough reported in Nature couple of months ago using a renewable natural precursor, soybean oil, to transform it into continuous graphene films, composed of single-to-few layers, in a single step. Instead of conventional CVD, the GraphAir thermal process for graphene films growth on cheap polycrystalline nickel sheets is carried out at ambient atmosphere in a sealed chamber. The absence of the need for compressed gases /vacuum therefore could lead to price decrease and boost the graphene availability. Moreover the method is claimed to be applicable to other types of renewable raw materials. Last but not least, the process can even be carried out on waste oil that otherwise would have no utility thereby increasing the societal value of this innovation while avoiding the use of food competing feedstocks. All in all, the sourcing and the synthesis process seem both very interesting alternatives vs. current commercial counterparts.
In the next months, we will disclose more of nature’s best materials.
 Single-step ambient-air synthesis of graphene from renewable precursors as electrochemical genosensor, Dong Han Seo et al. Nature Communications 8, 2017, DOI: 10.1038/ncomms14217
2: adapted from https://graphene-flagship.eu/
3: DOI: 10.1038/ncomms14217