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Inventor Spotlight: Dr. Muhammad Rabnawaz

By Kara Headley

Dr. Muhammad Rabnawaz is making the world a greener place through his research in paper at Michigan State University.

Rabnawaz, assistant professor in the School of Packaging and adjunct professor in the Department of Chemistry, is researching and developing smarter and more environmentally-friendly packaging solutions.

He recently developed of a new kind of paper. This paper can replace disposable plastic or plastic-laminated paper dishes, food wrappers, utensils, straws, etc. that currently create a massive, negative environmental impact.

Current disposable items have led to an increase in the use of plastics and fluorochemicals, which are synthetically-produced chemicals that repel oil and water. Fluorochemicals and plastics do not easily decompose and often accumulate in the environment.

Researchers around the globe grow increasing concerned by petro-chemical-derived plastics pollution, the use of harmful chemicals like fluorochemicals in the paper industry, and the growing demand for food across the globe.

“Research is my passion, and I enjoy each bit of my work,” Rabnawaz said. “There is always something new under development, and it is exciting to see this technology being put into use where it will help to improve peoples’ lives.”

Rabnawaz’s new paper, in addition to being fluorine-free, is both water and oil resistant, making it an ideal solution to replace the fluorochemicals often necessary for packaging. It is also 100% recyclable and repulpable, which will alter paper coating industry and minimize its environmental footprint.

Rabnawaz and his team worked with the MSU Innovation Center to obtain the MTRAC Grant for this project. This grant helped to speed up the commercialization of their work.

Rabnawaz takes inspiration from his research and from the words of Arthur Ashe: “Success is a journey, not a destination.”