We know that french fries aren’t good for you, but perhaps some good may come from our addiction to them. Researchers at the University of Toronto Scarborough recently showed that they could turn waste oil from McDonald’s deep fryers into a high-resolution, biodegradable 3D printing resin (h/t Plastics News).
Professor Andre Simpson led the research after realizing that the molecules in commercial resins were similar to the fats in cooking Oils. Last month, the University of Toronto Scarborough explained the research, writing:
Simpson and his team used a straightforward one-step chemical process in the lab, using about one litre of used cooking oil to make 420ml of resin. The resin was able to print a plastic butterfly that showed features down to 100 micrometres, and was structurally and thermally stable, meaning it wouldn’t crumble or melt above room temperature.
While the research is still early, Simpson points out how this technology could help on a couple of different environmentally friendly fronts. It helps find a use for waste oil, which can cause sewage backups and be expensive for restaurants to dispose of. Current 3D printing plastic resin uses fossil fuel oils and is difficult to make. Because the McResin is made from recyclable materials, it could be much cheaper than the current plastic version.
This McResin is also easily biodegradable because it’s basically just fats. Though Simpson doesn’t point to this specifically, perhaps this resin could create single-use cutlery or takeout packaging. There are obviously thermal issues to be worked out, but we are just at the beginning of this particular slice of 3D printing McResearch, and it will undoubtedly improve as more resources are poured into it.
Simpsons research joins a host of other startups tackling our plastic waste problem. Startups are developing ways to break our addiction to traditional plastic by developing edible cutlery, banana leaf packaging, or creating new types of compostable plastic-like packaging.
What’s cool about this resin is how it uses our addiction to greasy food to potentially help combat our addiction to single-use plastic. So maybe you can feel a little less guilty about ordering that side of fries next time.