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New Polymer Could Revolutionize Plastic Waste

Posted March 23, 2017

The plastic could be recovered and reused is just a drop in a world-wide growing mountain of garbage. If there was a way to create a super-durable alloy out of two of the biggest sources of packaging waste and using less oil at the same time. Scientists from Cornell University, recently announced the creation of a polymer additive that can create such an alloy out of polyethylene (PE) and polypropylene (PP). The idea, is two-fold: to make a better material from the world’s most used polymers and also help recycle them more efficiently. Scientists want to take all the world’s polyethylene and polypropylene to throw it together melt it down and get a material that has good or even better properties than either one of the materials alone. PE and PP are individually tough as standalone plastics and have a similar hydrocarbon makeup, they are immiscible with one another. Common grades of the polymers become brittle and unusable when blended together.

The researchers team developed a multiblock copolymer that can weld common grades of commercial PE and isotactic polypropylene (iPP) together, depending on the molecular weights and architecture of the block copolymers, by creating molecular stitches between the two materials. This makes the resulting blend as tough as iPP and PE themselves. This new material could help reduce the overall cost of modifying polyolefins and significantly increase the amount of polypropylene and polyethylene that gets recycled because the formulations can be made at a lower cost.  Assuming this new material comes in at the same cost and requires just 1% instead of 10%, the savings would encourage people to make new formulations based on the tetrablock and use them in various applications

You can see the researchers testing the polymer additive in the video below.

Source: Cornell University


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