Jun 07, 2017 05:53 AM EDT
Researchers from the University of Illinois makes the discovery of eliminating needless by-products that could harm the environment in the making of plastics. Through metal recognition reaction to hydrogen peroxide, the scientists developed the process by using eco-friendly catalysts in making resins and plastic derived from fossil fuels.
Molecules called olefins, which are derivatives from fossil fuels, bond most plastics. Olefin molecules pass through a process of alteration by chemical oxidants to create plastic and resin precursors called monomers. The rearrangement of chemical bonds allows the new monomers to infuse with other monomers allowing them to form long molecular chains that are building blocks of plastic, says Professor of Chemical and Biomedical Engineering, David Flaherty.
However, present procedures of olefin alteration produce by-products that are harmful to the environment like CO2 and chlorine, which can be a corrosive element. Fellow Chemical and Biomedical Engineer Daniel Bregante states that these procedures are dangerous as they also use organic peroxide and chlorine oxidants. The urgency of the matter harming the environment had Bregante and Flaherty jump into the study to eliminate the harmful chemicals used and created by metal recognition reaction.
The Biomedical engineers established the relationship of metal recognition, which they term as "transition metals" affect the reaction. The study, published in the Journal of the American Chemical Society stressed the importance of how and why identifying such metals are keys to their technique. They observed that with all the chemicals they applied, the most efficient is Hydrogen Peroxide whose only byproduct is water making it the greenest catalyst, reports Science Daily.
Olefins and oxidizers then pass through thin, porous structures called Zeolites in the formation of monomers. The zeolites contain metal ions that act as a catalyst that leads the chemical reaction to plastic producing avenues.
Other studies involve the fabrication of plastics by using biodegradable materials that underwent research and development with the collaboration of the University of Delaware, the University of Minnesota, and the University of Massachusetts. Instead of metal recognition reaction to hydrogen peroxide, their invention is the creation of a substitute of butadiene, also a derivative of fossil fuels, which will come from renewable sources like trees, grass, and corn, reports AZO Materials.
By these methods of metal recognition reaction with hydrogen peroxide and butadiene substitution with renewable resources, plastics will be eco-friendly and safe. Flaherty says that the facilities creating plastics are at its end of their efficient usage; it is a good time to look at new approaches to manufacturing green plastics.
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