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Creating a successful bioplastics science fair project!

by Ferhat Avdić

 

Hi everyone. I guess I’ll first introduce myself before I start. I’m Ferhat Avdić. I come from Bosnia and Hercegovina, a little country in South-east Europe. I’m an 18 years old student and I had the chance to participate on project olympiads so that’s why I’m writing the article in first place. Now let’s move on to stuff you will hopefully have use of. I’ll be speaking of my experience using bioplastics as my project, and of what you are expected to do if you want to compete in a science fair or project olympiad.

To keep you interested I will tell you right away: I won a bronze and a silver medal with my bioplastics project.

Science Fair Award

So what is the goal of a bioplastics project?

Bioplastics are a very good alternative to conventional plastics reducing the world’s plastic waste. Unlike conventional plastics, bioplastics are fossil fuel independent and are biodegradable. The main purpose of a bioplastics project is to prove their usability and biodegradability. So to prove the usability of bioplastics, you need to make your own, home-made biopalstics. Creating one sheet of bioplastic is not enough for a project. You need to create lots of different samples, all with a different formula. After measuring the properties of your samples and after you compare them, you will find the right ratio between the ingredients of your bioplastic. At the end you will have a bioplastic utensil as a result, which you can be proud of and which will probably be your winner project.

What are the critical spots of a project?

– Background info about your topic

– Abstract of your project

– Your experiment (variables, hypotheses, materials used, procedure, observations, data tables, graphs, graphs’ analysis, conclusion)

– Research paper (this is usually optional but a research paper is the evidence of all the work you did)

– References

– Display

What shall you focus on while doing a bioplastics project?

1. To make a good project, you must perform an experiment. Otherwise none of your work will be taken seriously by the judges. If you are not sure what a real experiment actually is, or what parts is an experiment made of, take a minute and search about it on Google. In your case, the experiment is measuring the bioplastic properties by performing tensile tests. While performing such a test you can measure properties of your plastic like tensile strength, stress, strain, elongation, and stiffness. The obtained data from the tests can be written in data tables and afterwards presented in graphs. Having data tables and graphs in a project is necessary to win.

Your plastic is biodegradable, but who will believe it if you don’t prove it? Testing the biodegradability of your plastic and taking evidence of it is as important as the tensile tests!

 

2. Write all the information I mentioned in the critical spots of a project in a research paper. Keep the background info you researched for yourself and write a 1-2 page introduction to the problem you are solving and the alternative you use.


3. Judges always check your references. Make sure you mention some real books as references because web pages alone are not so welcome.


4. Make the display look organized and clean. Don’t apply too much colors, winner displays are usually simply made. Don’t forget to shoot some pictures of yourself doing the experiment so you can put them on display later. The display shall contain all the information you will be talking about at the exhibition, that means introduction to your experiment and all the information obtained during your experiment. Have in mind, the display of your project makes the first impression!

About the jury and judging:

The jury expects to see something unusual at your stand. They expect to see your very own creation/experiment there. You need to get them interested in your project and to impress them with your exhibition. If you have a bioplastic bag you made yourself at home, they surely never saw anything like it. Be focused and don’t forget any of the stuff you want to show or tell to the jury. (You can write down simple notes to remind yourself about anything.) Don’t be surprised if the jury doesn’t judge your project by the true criteria. This happens a lot at science fairs. You just make sure to get the jury interested in what you exhibit and everything after that will be a lot easier and more effective.

Bioplastics project at science fairWhere did I compete?

I took a part in Burch Olympiad 2012, Bosepo 2013 (10th place out of 51 – silver medal) and Burch olympiad 2013 (3rd place out of 57 – bronze). These two competitions are “project olympiads” where you share your project to others and get judged by the jury. Afterwards the best projects win awards like medals, money, etc.

These are only in my country, but there are international competitions where anybody can compete if they got the money to travel. You might live in the country where one of such competitions is held so it would be a shame if you don’t take a project and exhibit it there as you got the chance to.

Why shall you compete?

Such competitions are real fun! The judging is not the only thing that happens there. Important is the friendly atmosphere. Everybody is there to share their idea with others and many people actually make friends. At the end, if you did well, you get money and a medal.

About my bioplastic bag:

Before it stretches it can hold up to 4,5 kg and it holds up to 7 kg before it tears apart.

Ingredients: water, corn starch, glycerine, bovine gelatine, lemon juice, edible colors.

Ratio between ingredients: nobody will ever tell you their secret of their invention, believe me.

Award-Winning Bioplastics Project 1Award-Winning Bioplastics Project 2

To all who chose bioplastics as their science fair project:

You won’t regret it. Bioplastics definitely solve a big environmental problem and this project meets all the formally required criteria at competitions. Usually you don’t have a whole website supporting the topic you chose, but in case you chose bioplastics you can get any support needed, thanks to Greg Stevens.

 


Comments (58)

  1. Kavyapriya says:

    I have chosen your topic for my science fair. So, please help me in doing this with your tips. Can you please support us in making the bioplastic model???

    • Green Plastics says:

      Sure! We’d be happy to help you out by answering any questions that you might have. What would you like to ask?

  2. Kate Paulo says:

    I was just wondering on how you made the entire manufacturing of the plastic. I mean, how did you make it like a plastic bag? Did you use a mold or something? Your answer will be of great help. Thanks!

  3. Juan Paulo says:

    it is useful but my topic in my science fair is a cradle to grave concept would be useful or would i win my science fair!!

  4. Arjun Sharma says:

    Hi,I just wanted to ask if I could get your methodology paper.Actually I am working on a similar project.If you could please tell me how to increase tensile strength because the plastic I made is very soft and breaks easily.Please mail it at the id given. Thank you.

    • Ferhat says:

      Im afraid I can’t share my recipe with anybody, but i sure can answer your question. Make sure you don’t use too much glycerin to produce your bioplastic. The more glycerin you put, the softer your plastic becomes. Good luck experimenting 🙂

  5. mona says:

    What are ingredients of bioplastic???plz reply fast

  6. heaven says:

    I chose this topic for my topic and I have a few questions….
    what do you know about bioplastic?
    what ingredients make the best bioplastic?
    what exactly do you do in your job that involves bioplastic?
    what made you choose to work with bioplastic?

    • Ferhat says:

      Bioplastic is the kind of plastic that can naturally degrade in soil (a process called biodegradation).
      The best bioplastic is made by using the ingredients i mentioned in the article above: water, corn starch, glycerine, bovine gelatine, lemon juice, edible colors.
      I’ve chosen this topic because it was original and there was no finished project about bioplastics on the internet at that time. It is a great project idea because it solves a big environmental problem (accumulation of plastics), however what I do right now does not involve bioplastics. Good luck! 😉

    • Ferhat says:

      For more information about bioplastics check the articles on this website or search specific topic on google. 😉

  7. Fallen says:

    I chose ur topic for my science fair too so i just want to ask if there is any other substitute for glycerin because its hard to get one in our town….

  8. help me please… i choose your topic can you give some advise:)

  9. Anonymous says:

    Can you teach me the ingredients to make a bioplastic bag, or at least ingredients that could be turned into flat sheets of plastic

    • Ferhat says:

      Hello! These ingredients are recommended: water, corn starch, glycerine, bovine gelatine, lemon juice, edible colors. Good luck!

  10. Andrea Vega says:

    Hi I want to know why lemon juice is used? and What is the technique you use? casting? … thank you so much

    • Ferhat says:

      Hi! Lemon juice/citric acid is used for the same reason vinegar/acetic acid is used – it works as a catalyst when cooking your bioplastic, the ions contained in the juice help the starch to dissolve better. Use a small amount of it to yield slightly better bioplastic.

  11. sudharsan says:

    hi Ferhat happy to see your experiments on bio-plastic am doing my Phd in bioplastics so i need your help. i prepared a sheet of thin flim using acetic acid, glycerol, starch and water. which had good elasticity but how can i made hard plastics like spoon and trays. i know i have to search all in google but u r a expert in it so i need ur help inthis. i will be very grateful to u. my email id kasirajan.sudharsan@gmail.com or u can reply here too.

    • Ferhat says:

      Hello! From my experience to make solid plastic with those ingredients you’ll need to bake it instead of cook it. (think of it as food). My first attempts were based on using a microwave and i’ve got very stiff plastic, although i could see some starch not dissolved. To solve this issue you might try heating the mixture up in a bowl just until it completely dissolves. You will need a silicon mold to create trays. Be cautious with the oven temperature not to ruin your plastic! (the silicon will handle high temperatures) Good luck with your pHd work! I hope i could help!

  12. s.s.vinodhini says:

    hi! FERHAT AVDIC Iam also a student of your age.Ichoosed the same topic. I was also successful in making plastic with corn starch.But it is easyly tearable and has low tensile strength. What shall I do to improve it?please!please!!please!!! HELP ME!!!!!

    • Ferhat says:

      Hi. Add more gelatine to make your plastic stronger and more elastic. Keep in mind, the ratio between the ingredients has a big role. Too much of any ingredient will ruin your outcome.

  13. s.s.vinodhini says:

    I ALSO NEED YOUR HELP TO MAKE PHOTODEGRADABLE PLASTICS!!!!

    • Ferhat says:

      This plastic is easily degradable in soil, however I don’t think we are able to make photodegradable plastics at home

  14. Kimberly says:

    Hi. Are glycerine, bovine, gelatine, lemon juice and edible colors that important? i mean like is it okay if i don’t use the things that i mentioned awhile ago? Its kinda hard for me to find it it our town. Hope u reply. thanksssssss

    • Ferhat says:

      You may request glycerine in a nearby drug store. They will make it for you. Gelatine is very important if you want your plastic strong and elastic. Lemon juice and the colors are not necessary but yield better results and nicer appearance of the plastic respectively. You may find those in grocery stores.

  15. Kim says:

    i need to come up w/ a new hypothesis can somebody help meeeeeeeee lol

    • Ferhat says:

      A hypotheses is any assumption, so you can assume what will be the result if you add X thing to your plastic. Just ask yourself questions about the outcome. Those are hypotheses. I hope it makes sense.

  16. arnulffo says:

    hi ferhat…. what about PVA polyvinyl alcohol as a binder? any substitute

  17. Anonymous says:

    citric acid is kinda one of the ingredients, i wonder if i can just use a softdrink as a substitute. will it still work da same?

    • Ferhat says:

      Use a pure lemon juice instead. Softdrinks always include additional substances you don’t need.

    • Ferhat says:

      You may use any type of starch, happy experimenting!
      To stick the two ready sheets you need the same gadget which is used to merge plastic foils together. Good luck

  18. aprithal says:

    what if i replace corn starch with starch tubers ?
    how to make bags of bioplastics ? I am a little confused as to combine the two into a bioplastic bags. so I am waiting for your answer , thank you

  19. Bing says:

    Why my bioplastic decompose so fast?

  20. Mamta says:

    Will u send me ur results of bioplastic characteristics test so i can compare with my results…??

  21. Alexi says:

    I have a question.. I am going to use an alternative starch from a native root crop instead of cornstarch for my project. do you think it will be tensile?

    • Ferhat says:

      Starch from different sources is not same (in terms of chemical bonds). Some sources have better starch components than others. You may use any type of starch but it might not give you the desired result. Happy experimenting!

  22. Joyce says:

    Hi. How do u roll into neat and nice sheets? How do u stick them together? Tq in advance

  23. Aaliyah says:

    I am doing a similar project but with my own recipe what would the variables be

    • Ferhat says:

      Hi there. Its written in the article above. “Ingredients: water, corn starch, glycerine, bovine gelatine, lemon juice, edible colors.” Have fun!

  24. Yasmina Soujaa says:

    Hi Ferhat! I want to ask you how did you do the tensile tests? Thank you so much and congrats 😉

    • Ferhat says:

      Hello. Theres a few steps to doing a tensile test at home:
      1. Get one of these force gauges https://www.scales-n-tools.com/images/PK-110_main.jpg (random link)
      2. One end of your plastic needs to be pressed so it doesn’t move when force is applied
      3. The force gauge has a hook, make sure it is attached to something that can pull the sheet evenly
      4. Apply force and pull gently until the sheet tears apart, write down the measurements
      5. Do the math
      Since you probably never had the chance to do a tensile test before, google about the formulas etc.
      Good luck!

  25. Good day Ferhat! i’m currently making a similar project but I add a plant gum and plant fibers to the mixtures thinking it would also increase the product’s strength and ability to hold more. do you think it is feasible? 🙂 hoping you could answer me back as soon as possible. God Bless you always ^_^

    • Ferhat says:

      Hello! Im sure fibers and gum will influence the strength of your product if you manage to merge it with the other ingredients together on a chemical level. Plant gum could possibly work. Apart from that, Im not that sure that fibers can melt together with other ingredients though. I hope you tried it already! Im amazed by your idea. Have fun experimenting and good luck! Never give up!

  26. Yunxuan says:

    HI Ferhat! Do u think is possible to make a bioplastic bottle?

    • Ferhat says:

      Hi yunxuan! It’s pretty much impossible to do that at home without some professional equipment. Id recommend trying a plastic cup instead. That could work. Have fun experimenting!

  27. Jana says:

    Hi Ferhat! I’m doing this project for my science fair, but could you please tell me how long this biodegradable plastic needs to decompose? Also, do i just mix the ingredients together, or is there any special process? Thank you in advance!

    • Ferhat says:

      Hello jana. It wont take long especially if theres rainy weather outside. In around 10 days it will completely wanish. And theres a video provided on top this site showing how the plastic is boiled at home 🙂

  28. Gin says:

    Dear Ferhat, thanks for sharing. Could you, or Green plastics, tell me which gadget you used to merge the plastoc into a bag? The link you shared back then, shows an error. Thank you.

  29. Rish says:

    HI, I am also doing similar project. But stuck at how to test tensile strength of plastic sheet. I have tried to contact all possible labs and universities if they have tool to measure it. But wasn’t successful. So can you please guide me how can I get this done.

    Thank you for your time.
    Rish

  30. Gabriele says:

    Hi Ferhat. I’m doing my project with same topic and i’m having problem with production of bioplastic as it doesnt come like a sheet while drying it all curls or breaks into parts. Can you please help me out with this? what the problem might be?

  31. Dear Ferhat, thanks for sharing these article. I’m doing science fair project at my school.My idea is to make a bioplastic because it seems that it was a very interesting project to do(even if it was very difficult). I hope you can help me to do a few thing…. how to do a thesis? My teacher had explain it earlier but, i still doesn’t know how to write it. Second is how if I make a bioplastic made from potato? Do you think I can make it? I really need your guidance

  32. abhinav says:

    hi ferhat i was thinking about making a project in school like you did can you please tell how did you make it.
    thanks

  33. charles says:

    am working on the same project but the plastic that is the products cracks after sometime. what could be the reason?

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