Materials and technologies – October 2022
Production of plastics
Researchers at the University of Illinois has discovered a method to convert CO2 into ethylene, which is an important building block for plastic production. During the process, an electrified catalyst draws the hydrogen atoms from water molecules and combines it with carbon atoms from carbon dioxide to form ethylene. The research (2.86 MB) is published in Cell Reports Physical Science.
A research team led by Osaka Metropolitan University has likewise synthesised a polymer using CO2 as feedstock. They synthesised a key element for PHB, a strong, water-insoluble polyester for packaging materials, from acetone and CO2. The researchers achieved a high yield of about 80% by using sunlight and biocatalysts, or so-called artificial photosynthesis. The research (917 KB) is published in Chemical Communications.
Scientists at the Queen Mary University of London have created a new type of nanomembrane to fractionate hydrocarbons, the main ingredients for manufacturing plastics and polymers, from crude oil. The energy demand can be reduced by 90% due to the size separation of the molecules in the oil by the thin nanomembranes. The research (abstract) is published in Science.
Prolonging the shelf life of food products
Azo Materials reports that a study from Zhejiang University in China presents porous hydrogels for the packaging of produce, in this case strawberries. These hydrogels are fabricated using algae and soy protein. The hydrogels have advantageous thermal insulating properties, are biodegradable, cost effective, non-toxic, and edible. The research (5.73 MB) is published in Food Hydrocolloids.
Nofima researchers studied the effects of CO2 addition to the packaging of raw chicken to see if it can optimise the packaging conditions. They found that CO2 reduces of the growth of CO2 tolerant and sensitive bacteria, and decreases the production of off-odours. The study (2.23 MB) is published in Food Control.
Recycling into new polymers
Scientists from the University of Illinois have developed a process to turn PE waste into PP, upcycling the PE plastic with more than 95% selectivity through a series of coupled catalytic reactions. The preliminary analysis implies that if global PE waste is recovered and converted to PP, it could save a large amount of greenhouse gas emissions. The research (abstract) is published in the Journal of the American Chemical Society.
Researchers of the University of Colorado Boulder demonstrate that traditional Poly cyanurate thermosets can be recycled back into its monomers, which can be circularly reused for their original purpose. The results show that dormant dynamic linkages can be activated and utilised to construct fully recyclable thermosets with a larger monomer scope and increased sustainability. The study (abstract) is published in Nature Chemistry.
Researchers at POSTECH and The New Zealand Institute for Plant and Food Research have developed a novel sensor platform that detects light exposure using a "universal meta hologram". The technology can be applied in intelligent packaging and labelling to prevent counterfeits. The research (abstract) is published in ACS Applied Materials & Interfacing.