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May 14, 2019
9:06PM

New plastic that could be fully recycled created by Berkeley Lab

Representational pic
The scientists have created a next-generation plastic that can be fully recycled into new materials of any colour, shape, or form, without loss of performance or quality.

A team of researchers at the US Department of Energy's (DOE) Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory has designed a recyclable plastic that, like a Lego playset, can be disassembled into its constituent parts at the molecular level.

According to Peter Christensen, a postdoctoral researcher at Berkeley Lab, most plastics were never made to be recycled. But he said, they have discovered a new way to assemble plastics that takes recycling into consideration from a molecular perspective.

All plastics, from water bottles to automobile parts, are made up of large molecules called polymers, which are composed of repeating units of shorter carbon-containing compounds called monomers.

According to the researchers, the problem with many plastics is that the chemicals added to make them useful, such as fillers that make a plastic tough, or plasticisers that make a plastic flexible are tightly bound to the monomers and stay in the plastic even after it is been processed at a recycling plant.

According to the journal Nature Chemistry, unlike conventional plastics, the monomers of PDK plastic could be recovered and freed from any compounded additives simply by dunking the material in a highly acidic solution.

The acid helps to break the bonds between the monomers and separate them from the chemical additives that give plastic its look and feel.

After testing various formulations, the researchers demonstrated that not only does acid break down PDK polymers into monomers, but the process also allows the monomers to be separated from entwined additives.

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