The Nereid Biomaterials team, including Rochester biologist Anne S. Meyer, has created the first ocean instrument made with 3D-printed internal parts composed of bioplastics. The instrument will be replicated and deployed in swarms to enable distributed measurements of the ocean carbon cycle. But because they will be made of bioplastic designed to degrade in oceans, the instruments will not add to the growing problem of (nondegradable) plastic marine pollution. Future applications may extend well beyond ocean instrumentation. (Melissa Omand / University of Rhode Island)Plastic waste poses an urgent problem for our planet’s ecosystems, especially our waterways. Millions of tons of plastic waste enter Earth’s oceans every year, and plastic has been found in every part of the ocean, including at the bottom of the deepest ocean trenches.
Although some biodegradable plastics, or bioplastics, have recently been developed, these plastics were intended to break down in industrial compost facilities. In cold, dark ocean environments, they break down very slowly.
What if there were a way to avoid the problem of plastic pollution while still reaping the benefits of plastic’s durability, versatility, and low cost?
In order to tackle this problem, Anne S. Meyer
, an associate professor in the Department of Biology
at the University of Rochester
, worked with marine microbiologist Alyson Santoro at the University of California, Santa Barbara; University of Rhode Island oceanographer Melissa Omand; ecologist Ryan Freedman from the Channel Islands National Marine Sanctuary; and industry partner Mango Materials
. Together, the team is developing bioplastics—environmentally friendly plastic materials engineered to degrade in ocean environments.
Supported by the National Science Foundation’s Convergence Accelerator
program, the group, collectively known as Nereid Biomaterials
, is now poised to enter