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What are biopolymers?

Biopolymers are polymers produced from natural sources. Natural polymers can be chemically synthesized from biological materials or biosynthesized by living organisms.

They consist of monomeric units bound together by covalent bonds. These monomeric units form larger molecules. Since biopolymers are derived from living organisms such as plants and microbes, they are a renewable resource that possess biodegradability.

In general, biopolymers are highly biodegradable. Because of this, they are also used in various sectors. Sectors that have an interest in the production of biopolymers include the food and biomedical industries. Biopolymers are promising materials because of their characteristics. Such as abundance in raw materials, biocompatibility and unique properties such as non-toxicity. With some nanoscale enhancements to improve their properties and practical applications, biopolymers are being explored in more and more possible ways.

Examples of biopolymers include proteins, starch, cellulose, DNA, RNA, lipids, collagen and carbohydrates.

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The market development of biopolymers

The global biopolymers market was valued at USD 13.7 billion in 2021 and is expected to reach about USD 35.25 billion by 2030. Europe is important for the majority of the revenue, at around 43.5% in 2021. 

Types of biopolymer

Biopolymers can be classified according to different scales. These classifications are based on their origin, a number of monomeric units, on degradability, their heat resistance, etc. Some of the classifications are:

  • Sugar-based polymers.
    Starch or sucrose is used as a raw material for production. Lactic acid polymers are made using lactose from potatoes, corn, etc.
  • Starch-based polymers
    Starch is a natural polymer composed of glucose. It is found in plant tissues.
  • Cellulose-based biopolymers.
    Used for packaging, this polymer consists of glucose obtained from natural sources such as cotton. E.g. cellophane.
  • Synthetic materials
    Degradable polymers can be made from synthetic materials obtained from petroleum.

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