MIT researchers develop silk-based system to replace microplastics

These scanning electron microscope images show silk-coated microcapsules containing vitamin C at different scales of detail. Left and top center: samples made by spray drying; Right and bottom center: samples made by ultrasonic spray freeze drying. [Images courtesy of MIT]

As scrutiny of microplastics mounts for their health and environmental impacts, a team of researchers are looking into silk protein as a naturally biodegradable alternative.

Silk protein fiber can be used as a nontoxic, delayed-release coating that’s safe for medical use instead of microplastics. That’s according to findings recently published in the journal Small by MIT postdoc Muchun Liu, MIT Civil and Environmental Engineering Professor Benedetto Marelli and five employees of German chemical conglomerate BASF.

Microplastics — solid, insoluble and nonbiodegradable plastic particles of up to 5 mm in size — are most known f…

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