New ‘Smart’ Plastic that is Degradable and Highly Recyclable

By: | August 21st, 2022

Image Credit: Wikimedia Commons

We all are aware of how plastics cause environmental pollution and health problems. Although plastic is not easily degraded and recycled, it has become an inseparable and integral part of our lives. 

The amount of plastics consumed annually has been growing steadily. Plastics low density, strength, fabrication capabilities, long life, low weight, and low cost are the factors behind their increasing demands.

Now in a big breakthrough, Scientists at Finland’s College of Turku have developed a material called supramolecular plastics. According to scientists, eco-friendly “supramolecular” plastic is more degradable and reusable and it can also replace conventional polymeric plastics. These “supramolecular” plastics are extremely recyclable and they could become adhesive and even instantly self-heal when broken.

This Self-healing technology could have many applications like car paint that repairs its own scratchesiPhone cases that fix themselves, and much more.

Science behind: 

Researchers did this using a technique called liquid-liquid phase separation (LLPS). The supramolecular plastics they developed contain non-covalent bonds of high strength that are reversible. As a result, these plastics have many useful properties and are degradable or recycled after use.

“Comparable with conventional plastics, our new supramolecular plastics are smarter as they not only retain the strong mechanical property but also reserve dynamic and reversible properties that made the material self-healable and reusable,” explained study author Dr. Jingjing Yu.

Senior Researcher Jianwei Li, said, “Emerging evidence has shown that LLPS could be a significant process during the formation of cell compartments,” 

“Now, we advanced this bio- and physical-inspired phenomenon to tackle the grand challenge for our environment. I believe that more interesting materials will be explored with the LLPS process in the near future.”

Nidhi Goyal

Nidhi is a gold medalist Post Graduate in Atmospheric and Oceanic Sciences.

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