Universitat de Girona, LEPAMAP-PRODIS Research Group (SPAIN)
About this paper:
Appears in: ICERI2021 Proceedings
Publication year: 2021
Pages: 3919-3924
ISBN: 978-84-09-34549-6
ISSN: 2340-1095
doi: 10.21125/iceri.2021.0932
Conference name: 14th annual International Conference of Education, Research and Innovation
Dates: 8-9 November, 2021
Location: Online Conference
The production, use and disposal of plastic materials, most of which are non-biobased neither biodegradable, have derived in serious environmental issues that need to be solved. As an example, few plastic-made products are recycled, approximately less than 10 %, whereas the rest of the plastics either remain in the environment for long periods or are burned in incinerators. For this reason, the scientific community and institutions are struggling to find alternatives to plastic materials, or at least reduce its consumption. A clear example is found in the prohibition of certain single-use plastic items as imposed by the EU legislation. In this environmental transition, engineers are called to take an active role in the development of novel materials, in issues such as design, production and eventual use and disposal of products. Consequently, it is expected that new engineering graduates should be completely aware of such environmental problems caused by plastic, which are intensifying year over year, as well as of the potential alternatives and solutions. However, this need to integrate environmental education to students contrasts with the existing lack in the engineering curricula towards such issues. For this reason, this work explores the possibility of developing educational experiences to engineering students with the purpose of focusing the interest of students and make them more conscious of the current environmental problems.

LEPAMAP-PRODIS research group from Universitat de Girona aims at the development of greener materials by replacing those petroleum-based plastic materials by biobased and biodegradable ones. Such plastics are usually referred to as bioplastics, and their higher cost and typically lower mechanical performance than conventional plastics makes them a less competitive option. Thereby, the development of composite materials combining bioplastics and natural fibers has been broadly described as a viable solution to reduce the material’s cost and improve its properties.

Overall, in this work, a demonstration experience was given to second-year chemical engineering students, consisting of a:
(i) theoretical part,
(ii) experimental part, and
(iii) evaluation part.

During the experimental part the students could interact with a variety of bioplastics and composite materials, from its processing and final testing. The student’s opinion on the activity was assessed by a satisfactory survey, whereas the didactic usefulness of the activity was evaluated by means of a theoretical test. The obtained results evidenced the great enthusiasm and interest shown by the students throughout the whole experience, which contrasted with a clear lack of knowledge in this field.
Chemical engineering, experimental working, bioplastics, composite materials.