A plastic that breaks down on demand

A new plastic made from natural materials that breaks down to its soluble building block molecules when exposed to ultraviolet light has been created by scientists.

IANS| Updated: Nov 27, 2014, 14:35 PM IST
A plastic that breaks down on demand

New York: A new plastic made from natural materials that breaks down to its soluble building block molecules when exposed to ultraviolet light has been created by scientists.

"Our strategy has the potential to build novel materials from biomass that are degradable with light after usage, mitigating the stress of unwanted chemicals in our environment. Studies to address these aspects are currently underway in our laboratories," said Sivaguru Jayaraman, from the department of Chemistry at North Dakota State University (NDSU).

The researchers used oilseed from agricultural crops and using cellulose, lignin and sucrose, generated building blocks of molecules to create a polymer for making plastics.

When exposed to ultraviolet light at 350 nanometres for three hours, the plastic degrades back to molecules, which could then be used to create new plastic.

"Real sustainability involves breaking it back into the building blocks. We have shown that we can break it down into the building blocks and re-make the polymer," explained Mukund Sibi from the Center for Sustainable Materials Science at NDSU.

Further study is needed to evaluate the durability and strength of the plastics derived from biomass before their discovery can be commercialised, the researchers say.

The research was published in the journal Angewandte Chemie.