There are about 14 billion pounds of garbage thrown into the ocean every year. As a result, more than 1 million seabirds and 100,000 sea mammals are killed. Luckily, we found a shocking way to help limit the amount of plastic in the ocean. The answer is simple, squid ink. According to researchers, protein found in squid can be used to create sustainable alternatives to plastic. These SRT proteins have “remarkable properties” and materials made from them are elastic, flexible, and strong. This is beyond amazing news because this means we could replace materials that we use everyday with something more efficient. The proteins have thermal, self-heating and electrical conducting capabilities, which gives the potential for new applications. The protein from the squid comes from their “teeth.” Squid grasp their prey using suction cups on their tentacles and arms. Therefore, the cups are equipped with sharp “ring teeth” that hold the food in place.
With advanced technology, researchers now have the capability to reach the proteins without hurting the squid. The natural materials in squid ink are biodegradable, so the process is based on fermentation (the use of sugar, water, and oxygen). These proteins could be used in washing your laundry. As a result, the number of clothing microfibers that end up in the ocean could be reduced, which contributes to microplastic pollution. Melik Demirel, of Pennsylvania State University, is lead author of the new report, which reviews existing research on materials made from these proteins. He states that his team has produced plenty of prototypes of fibers, coatings, and 3D objects made entirely from the squid ring teeth (SRT) proteins. Surprisingly, the teeth are made from proteins that are similar to silk. Therefore, these proteins have become the subject of scientific interest in the last few years.
Scientists and civilians predict that squid ink could lead to the inventions of new materials, and the replacement of other. These magnificent marine animals provide “excellent materials” that we never knew about. Everyday, we could create new materials that are safer for our majestic ocean atmosphere. The squid make a much bigger impact than we think. SRT proteins could be used to also make protective clothing for chemical and biological warfare agents. We especially need to be cautious when we replace plastic. This is because as well as polluting our oceans, plastics have been found to emit greenhouse gases when they degrade. We can all start making a change by welcoming our ocean friends, the squid.