Fossil energy depletion and growing environmental concerns have brought up increasing interest in bio-based eco-efficient and high technology materials. Among them, starch nanocrystals (SNC) consist of crystalline nano-platelets produced from the hydrolysis of starch and mainly used as nano-fillers in polymeric matrix. New applications have brought up the need for scaling-up the SNC preparation process. However, for this new bio-based nano-material to be sustainable, its preparation and processing should have limited impacts on the environment. Thus, together with analyzing and making recommendations for the scaling-up of SNC production process, it is worth identifying “environmentally sensitive” steps using life cycle analysis (LCA). To that purpose, different scenarios have been proposed and compared according to different environmental impacts. Also, a comparison to its main competitor, i.e. organically modified nanoclay (OMMT), is proposed. From a LCA point of view, SNC preparation requires less energy than OMMT extraction, but global warming and acidification indicators were higher than for OMMT. However, SNC have the added advantages to be renewable and biodegradable contrary to OMMT which contribute to non-renewable energy and mineral depletion. Thus, used as filler, SNC have a positive impact on the end of life of the filled material. From these observations, recommendations for the scaling-up of the SNC preparation process are made and deal mainly with the use of land and water.
- Life cycle analysis (LCA)
LeCorre, D., Hohenthal, C., Dufresne, A., & Bras, J. (2012). Comparative sustainability assessment of starch nanocrystals. Journal of Polymers and the Environment, 21(1), 71-80. https://doi.org/10.1007/s10924-012-0447-0