UA team helps high school students create a 100% biodegradable pen

Matilde Alves, Carolina Miranda, and Sofia Gomes are students at Escola Secundária Júlio Dinis, in Ovar, and, about two years ago, they requested the collaboration of the University of Aveiro (UA) in the development of a biodegradable pen compatible with the ink of natural origin of your authorship. With the help of Paula Vilarinho, Idalina Gonçalves, and Martinho Lima, from the Department of Materials and Ceramics Engineering (DEMaC), the students are now closer to their final goal.

The idea of ​​creating a sustainable pen came up with the need to reduce the waste resulting from ballpoint pens produced from non-biodegradable plastic and to overcome the problems associated with the toxicity of inks. Poppy petals were the motto that gave rise to the first natural ink created by the 11th and 12th-grade students and which earned them, last year, the “special Lipor prize” with the project “PoppyInk – A sustainable ink”. After the poppy petals, paints with other natural pigments such as seaweed, coffee grounds, courgette peels, curry, and saffron followed.

Currently, attention is mainly focused on the structure of the pen they are trying to produce. For this, they have the help of Paula Vilarinho, professor and researcher at DEMaC, Idalina Gonçalves and Martinho Lima, researcher and master’s student at DEMaC, respectively. Matilde, Carolina, and Sofia have been traveling to the Maker’s Lab, located at DEMaC, where they have been working on the development of a filament based on starch recovered from the processing of potatoes and coffee grounds discarded daily. This filament is suitable for later use in the 3D printing of a pen through additive manufacturing technologies that allow the production of three-dimensional objects with complex geometries. It is in the DEMaC infrastructure, under the guidance of various researchers, that the students use filament extrusion and additive manufacturing equipment.

Idalina Gonçalves explains that optimizing the formulation implies optimizing the type and concentration of biomolecules used as a function of the mechanical and physical-chemical performance of the materials.

With the formulations obtained so far, the students have already managed to print a 3D ring for the pen. The next phase will focus on the 3D printing of the rest of the pen support and on the study of the affinity between the ink and the biodegradable material.

The adventures of these three students can be followed on their Instagram accounts.