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Leuven-based bioplastics nominated for European innovation prize

10 May 2023

Two KU Leuven researchers developed a new, more energy-efficient and cheaper process to make bioplastics. Leuven researchers Michiel Dusselier and Bart Sels have been nominated as one of the finalists for the European Inventor Award.

The two researchers made a breakthrough in their research years ago and patented a new technology to produce polylactic acid. That is a biodegradable plastic made from corn or sugarcane. Polylactic acid is one of the most widely used bioplastics in the world. It is popular for beverage cups and packaging materials for fruits and vegetables, among other things.

Thanks to the Leuven research, polylactic acid can be produced with fewer intermediate steps and thus more cheaply. The French multinational Total Energies immediately saw a future in it and purchased the patents. Whether Total has further refined the technology and built it into its plants is not clear. Total also stepped into a joint venture in recent years with Dutch company Corbion, which had its own technology.

Dusselier and Sels, meanwhile, have their own lab and department at KU Leuven where they continue their search for optimal production methods for bioplastics. Dusselier is working on a way to make polylactic acid stronger.

Source: De Tijd

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