IBM and Stanford experts have proposed an inexpensive way to produce biodegradable plastic
A joint team of researchers from IBM and Stanford University has developed a new way to produce biodegradable plastic. The main element of the process in this case is a special catalyst. Using it, you can get an inexpensive and practical biodegradable plastic with improved properties.
“In this discovery, it is good that the production process can be debugged fairly quickly, with the new material being cheaper than its counterparts. This is a great alternative to the plastic recycling process, which has its drawbacks, ”explains Gavin Jones, a researcher at IBM Research. According to him, the new type of plastic can be used to create a variety of goods, including cutlery, cases and elements of medical devices and special-type fabrics. The results of their research, scientists have published in the scientific journal NatureChemistry.
To create a biodegradable plastic (usually polyesters) catalysts are used that increase the speed of the chemical reaction. In the usual case, the catalyst is metal. It is either tin or aluminum. In most cases, the catalyst gets into the final material, and it is quite difficult to remove it. The removal process increases the cost of this type of plastic. The specialists of our company and Stanford have developed a new, organic catalyst - this is thiourea and metal alkoxide. The properties of the new catalyst make it possible to speed up and facilitate the reaction, while the shape and properties of the final reaction product, the polymer, do not change.
Gavin Jones, an IBM specialist who developed the process of obtaining biodegradable plastic
This catalyst can be customized for the production of various types of plastics. So far, it’s too early to talk about the commercial use of opening specialists, but a number of companies have already become interested in this work.
The work of scientists to create biodegradable plastic is very important. The fact is that plastic bags, bottles and other garbage are one of the main anthropogenic pollutants of the hydrosphere. The amount of plastic in the ocean significantly exceeds the number of theoretical estimates made earlier. One of the most polluted places on Earth is the Great Pacific Garbage Patch. Plastic is thousands of tons.
Plastic and other debris detectedeven in the Mariana Trench, at a depth of about 3-5 kilometers. If we were able to create a material that decomposes in reasonable time, without causing damage to the environment, this would help solve the problem of plastic debris.
Our company works not only with biodegradable plastic. Not so long ago, IBM experts opened a new class of durable self-healing polymers. These polymers are free from the drawbacks of conventional industrial polymers - they can be recycled, plus they are self-healing. One of the types of polymers is a composite material, very durable (strength 60–100 MPa at 20 degrees Celsius), capable of self-healing to a certain extent (when small cracks form).
The second polymer is an elastic gel at ordinary temperature. At the same time, such plastic, being cut into pieces, which are then folded together, is very quickly restored with preserving the strength of the original material. According to experts, the second type of plastic can be used as a very durable glue, as well as for transporting certain types of substances. You can use the discovery in areas such as transport, aerospace, electronics. According to experts, discoveries of a similar scale in this area have not been made for 10 years.