The old DuPont facility off Jefferson Davis Highway in Chesterfield, Virginia, doesn't look like ground zero for the next technological revolution. There's a welding shop next door and a lumber supply company a short walk away. Silicon Valley it ain't. But Richard Feldman, the director of public affairs for Mari Signum, the company that leased the place, speaks with an evangelist's fervor about what might happen there: a leap forward in materials science that could help solve the world's plastics problem.
If only some more environmentally friendly substance could take plastic's place. Of course, it would have to be biodegradable. And abundant. And easy to obtain—not to mention inexpensive. And like plastic, it would have to be able to serve a vast spectrum of functions, not just one or two.
There is such a substance, Feldman says: chitin. A. Barton Hinkle explains further.
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