Scientists simulate fermentation to recycle plastic into useful resources

Polyolefin plastics - polyethylene and polypropylene - are unfortunately very common. These types

Polymers are widely used in manufacturing and can be found in bags, shampoo bottles, toys, and food containers.

“We assumed that we could borrow fromnature and mimic the processes by which enzymes accurately break down macromolecules, such as proteins and cellulose. We have succeeded and we are pleased to continue to optimize and develop this process, ”explains Aaron Sadow, Ames Lab Scientist and Director of the Institute for Collaborative Plastics Processing (iCOUP).

Unique process based on technologynanoparticles. Ames Lab scientist Wenyu Huang has developed a mesoporous silica nanoparticle. It consists of a platinum core with catalytic active sites, which, in turn, are surrounded by long channels of silicon dioxide. Through them, long polymer chains penetrate into the catalyst.

Thanks to this design, the catalyst is capable ofhold and split longer polymer chains into coherent, uniform shorter pieces. They have much more potential for recycling into new, more useful end products than what recycling now offers.

It is worth noting that this type of controlled catalysis process has never been created with inorganic materials before.

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