Scientists take another step towards a Recyclable Polymer

Scientists take another step towards a Recyclable Polymer

Pollution problems linked with Petroleum Plastic Accumulation might come to an end following the discovery of a Recyclable Polymer.

Plastic is a massive contributor to the pollution humanity faces all around the globe. The features that are destroying humans and the planet itself are the ones that encouraged people to use them initially. The fact that they are cheap adds to their affordability. It offered a massive amount of strength and had very little weight to go with it which added convenience to the users. The factors of reusability and durability were also there at your disposal with plastics as they are long-lasting and you can use them again and again.

These characteristics had immense importance in various fields and the market for plastics boosted at an extremely rapid rate. This growth poses serious threats to the world as most of the plastic we use today is non-recyclable.

A lot of hard work has been done to control this catastrophic situation and it seems as if the scientists have finally managed to come up with something that will help us to cure this. The plastic that surrounds us hardly yields any useful substance when it is broken down. As a solution to this problem, the researchers of Colorado State University (CSU) have developed a new polymer that will easily return to its original molecules so that it could be recycled.

There will be no need of complicated lab processes or toxic chemicals for this process. Eugene Chen, a Professor of Chemistry who led the team which established this wondrous material, told the world that this material possesses all the qualities of traditional plastics yet it can be broken down into its constituent molecules that allow complete chemical recyclability. He said,

The polymers can be chemically recycled and reused, in principle, infinitely.”

The lead for this polymer came from another recyclable one that was created by Chen’s lab in 2015. There were some drawbacks in that version that the team tried to rectify this time around. Firstly, the development of that polymer needed extremely cold conditions. This was a major hurdle in its use at an industrial level as it would have limited the potential. The molecular weight was on the lower side due to which the ability to resist heat was also not that great. Similarly, it was relatively more soft than plastic.

Despite all these deficiencies, the knowledge provided by it was essential for generating this improved version and Chen acknowledged that.

This polymer has a lot of practical properties that will enhance its efficiency many times. It can be created at conditions that are tremendously feasible for industries. It requires solvent-free, reaction time of few minutes at room temperature with the minimum amount of catalyst for its formation. It resembles plastic in terms of mechanical properties and has a high molecular weight, which ensures thermal stability.

The most important characteristic of this outstanding invention is that it can be converted back to its monomers through a catalyzed reaction under mild conditions. Those monomers need no processing at all and are ready to be joined to form the polymers again. This is a massive advantage as the accumulation of plastic is the major disadvantage we want to eliminate.

Although initial experiments suggest a handful of advantages, a lot of more working is needed before launching this product commercially. The team of researchers, led by Chen, seems quite determined to revolutionize the world of plastics as they recently received a grant from the CSU. They are utilizing it in the best way possible as they are trying to figure out cheaper techniques for generating this polymer. They are also exploring the ways to produce it on a much larger scale so that industrial demand could be met. Despite all these challenges, Chen is hopeful that they will come up with something great as they are heading in the right direction. He said,

“It would be our dream to see this chemically recyclable polymer technology materialize in the marketplace.”

If all the plans of Chen turn into reality, we can predict a future where there will be no need for landfills as green plastics will be depolymerized into monomers, unlike petroleum plastics that hardly decompose at all.

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