Aagje Hoekstra has developed a bioplastic made of pressed insect shells; Coleoptera.
In the Netherlands, mealworms are bred for the animal food industry. Mealworms are the larval form of the mealworm beetle, which dies three to four months after laying its eggs. Because the beetle is at the end of it's life cycle, it is seen as waste. Aagje gives these beetles a second life, in which design is their new function.
The beetle's armor contains the substance chitin. After cellulose, chitin is the most common polymer on earth. Aagje peels the insects, so she is left with just the shields. In a chemical lab, Aagje transforms these shields into pure chitin and subsequently into chitosan. Chitosan is almost the same polymer, but bonds better due to a variation in molecular composition. She presses the chitosan together into the 'insect plastic' Coleoptera.
This paper-thin material is already used for light objects and jewelry.
Coleoptera | A bioplastic made of dead beetles