New Plastics, Created by Accident, Self-Heal, are Recyclable
|June 27, 2014||Posted by Staff under Environmental|
This 2014 excerpt of BBC, May 15, by Jonathan Webb.
Researchers have developed a collection of new plastics that are recyclable and adaptable – and the discovery began with a laboratory mistake.
They include strong, stiff plastics and flexible gels that can mend themselves if torn.
Dr Jeanette Garcia, from IBM’s Almaden Research Center in San Jose, stumbled upon the first new class of thermosets in many years when she accidentally left one of three components out of a reaction.
That chunk of plastic, produced from unexpectedly simple ingredients, proved to be tremendously hard and stable. Crucially, it could be digested in acid, reverting to its original components. This digestion reaction allows the chemical building blocks, or monomers, to be reused.
All previous “thermosets”, like the Bakelite found in old telephones and radios, were not recyclable.
Because they are strong and light-weight, thermosets are used throughout modern cars and aircraft, often mixed with carbon fibres to form composites. The new plastics could reduce waste from aircraft materials. When a large or expensive component is damaged or reaches the end of its useful life, it could be repaired or recycled instead of thrown away.
As well as very hard and durable plastics, the researchers adapted their procedure to a different monomer and produced flexible, self-healing gels. These could be useful in anything from cosmetics, to paint, to the design of drug capsules, because of their particular solubility properties.
Ed. Notes: Industry catches up to kindergartners who know to clean up after themselves. As the environment becomes more livable again, it will cost more to live in it. Hence we better have progress in social policy to match the progress in materials technology. That is, we should make the higher land values into a boon for everyone by recovering and sharing them, in lieu of taxation and wasteful spending. It’s called geonomics and aligns the needs of Earth with those of humanity.