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Biodegradability Lab

Dr. Micheline Labrie in the SMAST Biodegradability Lab

The Biodegradability Laboratory at SMAST is a state-of-the-art research and product development facility. Opened in 2022, the Biodegradability Lab is designed to study the biological breakdown of plastics in the world's oceans as well as in landfills, soil, and compost. In addition to measuring the biodegradation of plastic products in different environmental conditions, the lab provides a space for businesses to test and develop more sustainable and biodegradable products and materials.  

The Biodegradability Lab is located at SMAST West.

Features and Functionality

The lab is equipped to test experimental materials, as well as related respirometry applications that require high sensitivity measurements of gas production. Biodegradability tests can be conducted following standard operation procedures developed in adherence with ASTM D6691 (seawater), D5511 (landfill), D5338 (compost) and D5988 (soil) standard methods or customized to meet specific client requirements.    

The low levels of biological activity associated with plastic biomineralization can be detected using each of the lab’s four respirometry systems (Micro-Oxymax, Columbus Instruments). The computer-automated assay systems include:

  • 80-reactor anaerobic system (for landfill assays) with carbon dioxide and methane sensors
  • 60-reactor aerobic system (for seawater assays) with a carbon dioxide sensor
  • 40-reactor aerobic system (for composting assays) with oxygen and carbon dioxide sensors

The lab components and key features have been designed in close collaboration and with critical feedback from PrimaLoft textiles engineers, chemical engineers, and environmental scientists. Associated laboratory services include cryogenic milling of experimental materials, particulate carbon and nitrogen and dissolved nutrient analysis of the experimental material and/or inoculum.  

The Biodegradability Lab at SMAST is also a place where local K-12 students can learn about the challenges of plastics in our environment and how to solve them using STEM skills. 

For more information about our testing rates, please inquire at bio.lab@umassd.edu

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