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LABORATORY PRACTICE TO TEACH THE DIFFERENT VARIABLES IN DEVELOPING A NOVEL USE OF AN EDIBLE POLISACARIDE, AGAR-AGAR

C. Rius-Alonso, Y. González-Quezada, G. Cruz-Martinez

Universidad Nacional Autonoma de Mexico, Facultad de Química (MEXICO)
Chemistry is taught now at the Faculty of Chemistry (Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México), with a large component of environmental concern. We have developed a new practice to teach student the importance of taking care of the environment.

One of the main pollution problem is the amount of plastic material that is dumped in the land fields and it takes years for degrade. Replacing the plastic for natural polymers is a real alternative.

In Mexico at the Gulf of Cortés (Between mainland and the Península de Baja California) a red algae (Rodoficeae) growth wild, it is very rich in an edible polysaccharide, Agar-Agar.

We gave to a group of students the task of using different fortmulations, to obtain an edible package to be used as a glass for drinking. The idea is that they have to obtain a small drinking glass made with Agar and other ingredients that are non toxic, and edible.

They developed a statistical experiment, with different amounts of Agar, water, glycerin, sugar, colorant, flavors,and biocides to make an attractive and tasteful product.

One of the advantage of using agar is that it can hold aqueous products for several hours without affecting their properties. As far as the temperature is held below 50°C, (for a short period of time can be up to 70°). After their use, it can either be eaten or dumped into the organic waste and can be recycle very fast in the environment.

Several products were presented by the students, as glass, packing material, containers etc.

Students learn to solve problems and find environmental friendly alternatives following this approach.