WEST LAFAYETTE - WEST LAFAYETTE -- One possible solution to the global problem of plastic found in the ocean and the mountains of plastic in landfills may come from a recyclable product developed at Purdue University.

California-based Spero Renewables LLC has signed a $2 million agreement with the U.S. Department of Energy to advance ‘wood-based’ plastic technology.

The SperoSet technology is designed for the manufacture of high-tech plastics produced from fiber-reinforced polymers that are biodegradable.

The company, which got its start through the Purdue Research Foundation, utilizes its proprietary technology to unlock the resources of readily available biomass. The goal is to reduce the dependence on oil-based plastics.

“There is a critical need for renewable substitutes to petrochemicals used in plastics and other products,” said Ian Klein, Spero’s chief technology officer. “These high-tech plastics are as strong as steel but are lightweight and have multiple uses including automotive and aerospace production.”

Spero’s form of plastic can be easily molded. The company says the material strengthens when heated, provides strong insulation and is also resistant to corrosion and chemicals. They have wide applications from the automotive to the electronic industry.

“With this new DOE joint cooperative agreement, we are currently looking toward identifying the best-fit application to roll the technology out into before implementing SperoSet into broader high-performance plastics markets,” Klein said.

Spero was founded in 2013 at Purdue University by Mahdi Abu-Oma, who is now a professor at the University of California, Santa Barbara, where the cleantech company is now based.