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Author Topic: Pollution  (Read 14141 times)

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anonymous

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May 9th, 2019 by Steve Hanley

Fully Recyclable Plastics Breakthrough! This Could Change Everything

Plastics today are made up of large molecules called polymers which in turn are created from shorter compounds called monomers. Then those polymers are mixed with additives that make them suitable for a particular purpose. Some make a plastic tough. Others make it flexible. Still others change its color. But those additives create strong chemical bonds with the polymers. Breaking those bonds is next to impossible in any cost effective way.

That’s what makes it so hard to recycle plastics. All recycling plants do is chop up all the waste plastic that comes in the door into small bits. When the chopped-up plastic is melted to make a new material, it’s hard to predict which properties it will inherit from the original plastics.

“Circular plastics and plastics upcycling are grand challenges,” says Brett Helms, a staff scientist at Berkeley’s Molecular Foundry. “We’ve already seen the impact of plastic waste leaking into our aquatic ecosystems, and this trend is likely to be exacerbated by the increasing amounts of plastics being manufactured and the downstream pressure it places on our municipal recycling infrastructure.”

The researchers went back to basic principles. This time, instead of inventing plastics that never breakdown, they focused on recyclability from the beginning. The result is a new kind of plastic called polydiketoenamine or PDK. Their report on PDKs has been published recently in the journal Nature Chemistry. “With PDKs, the immutable bonds of conventional plastics are replaced with reversible bonds that allow the plastic to be recycled more effectively,” Helms says.

Unlike conventional plastics, the monomers of PDK plastic can be recovered and freed from any additives simply by dunking the material in a highly acidic solution. The acid helps to break the bonds between the monomers and separates them from the chemical additives that give plastics their look and feel, according to a report by Science Daily.

Read more:

https://cleantechnica.com/2019/05/09/fully-recyclable-plastics-breakthrough-this-could-change-everything/

 

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