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Scientist Develops Recyclable Materials to Solve Plastic Sustainability Issues

Published on 2021-08-05. Edited By : SpecialChem

TAGS:  Sustainability and Bioplastics     High Heat Materials   

professor-wang-recyclable-material University of Akron researcher, Dr. Junpeng Wang offers a solution to reduce plastic waste and clear a scientific pathway for a more sustainable future that can appeal to the rubber, tire, automobile and electronics industries.

Processing of the New Material

The recyclable materials Wang and his team have developed are unique in the superior thermal stability and versatile mechanical properties.

We are particularly interested in chemically recyclable polymers that can be broken down into the constituents (monomers) from which they are made,” says Wang. “The recycled monomers can be reused to produce the polymers, allowing for a circular use of materials, which not only helps to preserve the finite natural resources used in plastics production, but also addresses the issue of unwanted end-of-life accumulation of plastic objects.”

The key in the design of chemically recyclable polymers is to identify the right monomer. Through careful computational calculation, the researchers identified a targeting monomer. They then prepared the monomer and polymers through chemical synthesis, using abundantly available starting materials.

Wang’s research group, including polymer science graduate students and a postdoctoral scientist, aims to address those challenges by developing polymers that can be broken down into their constituent parts. When the catalyst for depolymerization is absent or removed, the polymers will be highly stable and their thermal and mechanical properties can be tuned to meet the needs of various applications.

Robust Mechanical Properties and Thermal Stability

The chemically recyclable polymers we developed show excellent thermal stability and robust mechanical properties and can be used to prepare both rubber and plastics,” says Wang. “We expect this material to be an attractive candidate to replace current polymers. Our molecular design is guided by computation, highlighting the transformational power of integrating computation and experimental work. Compared to other recyclable polymers that have been demonstrated, the new polymers we demonstrate show much better stability and more versatile mechanical properties. When a catalyst is added, the polymer can be degraded into the constituent monomer for recycling.”

Next for Wang’s research group is to expand the scope of the chemically recyclable polymers and to develop carbon-fiber reinforced polymer composites. The team will also analyze the economic performance of this industrial process and life-cycle analysis for commercialization of the polymers.

Source: University of Akron


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