Glitter is the bane of every parent and primary school teacher. But beyond its general annoyance factor, it’s also made of toxic and unsustainable materials, and contributes to plastic pollution.
New research from Cornell University aims to ease the process of chemical recycling – an emerging industry that could turn waste products back into natural resources by physically breaking plastic down into the smaller molecules it was originally produced from.
Sunlight was once thought to only fragment plastics in the marine environment into smaller particles that chemically resemble the original material and persist forever. However, scientists more recently have learned that sunlight also chemically transforms plastic into a suite of polymer-, dissolved-, and gas-phased products.
Over the past 100 years, plastics and polymers have changed the way the world operates, from airplanes and automobiles to computers and cell phones — nearly all of which are composed of fossil fuel-based compounds. A Florida State University research team’s discovery of a new plastic derived from pine sap has the potential to be a gamechanger for new sustainable materials.
In Physics of Fluids, researchers have developed a method to turn biodegradable plastic knives, spoons, and forks into a foam that can be used as insulation in walls or in flotation devices. The investigators placed the cutlery into a chamber filled with carbon dioxide. As pressure increased, the gas dissolved into the plastic. When they suddenly released the pressure in the chamber, the carbon dioxide expanded within the plastic, creating foaming.
Derived from crude oil, toxic to synthesize, and slow to degrade, polyurethanes are not environmentally friendly. Today, researchers discuss a safer, biodegradable alternative derived from fish waste that would otherwise likely be discarded. They will present their results at ACS Spring 2021.
Rutgers scientists for the first time have pinpointed the sizes of microplastics from a highly urbanized estuarine and coastal system with numerous sources of fresh water, including the Hudson River and Raritan River. Their study of tiny pieces of plastic in the Hudson-Raritan Estuary in New Jersey and New York indicates that stormwater could be an important source of the plastic pollution that plagues oceans, bays, rivers and other waters and threatens aquatic and other life.
Micro- and nanoplastics were not absorbed by plant cells but did attach to the root cap. This could bode well for future cleanup of contaminated environments, but not well for root crops, like carrots.
Engineers have invented a way to spray extremely thin wires made of a plant-based material that could be used in N95 mask filters, devices that harvest energy for electricity, and potentially the creation of human organs. The method involves spraying methylcellulose, a renewable plastic material derived from plant cellulose, on 3D-printed and other objects ranging from electronics to plants, according to a Rutgers-led study in the journal Materials Horizons.
Researchers at Iowa State University and their partners will create a system that converts wastes generated by military expeditionary forces into food.
Scientists have discovered a previously unknown way that some bacteria produce the chemical ethylene – a finding that could lead to new ways to produce plastics without using fossil fuels.
Scientists at Oak Ridge National Laboratory and Ohio State University discovered a new microbial pathway that produces ethylene, providing a potential avenue for biomanufacturing a common component of plastics, adhesives, coolants and other everyday products.
Researchers examined toxins in tissue concentrations and pathology data from 83 stranded dolphins and whales from 2012 to 2018. They looked at 11 different animal species to test for 17 different substances. The study is the first to report on concentrations in blubber tissues of stranded cetaceans of atrazine, DEP, NPE and triclosan. It also is the first to report concentrations of toxicants in a white-beaked dolphin and in Gervais’ beaked whales.
The U.S. Department of Energy’s Ames Laboratory will lead the Institute for Cooperative Upcycling of Plastics (iCOUP) Energy Frontier Research Center (EFRC), with $12.8 million in funding over four years.
Imagine tiny crystals that “blink” like fireflies and can convert carbon dioxide, a key cause of climate change, into fuels. A Rutgers-led team has created ultra-small titanium dioxide crystals that exhibit unusual “blinking” behavior and may help to produce methane and other fuels, according to a study in the journal Angewandte Chemie. The crystals, also known as nanoparticles, stay charged for a long time and could benefit efforts to develop quantum computers.
Many of us have seen informational posters at parks or aquariums specifying how long plastics bags, bottles, and other products last in the environment. They’re a good reminder to not litter, but where does the information on the lifetime expectancy of plastic goods come from, and how reliable is it?
Researchers reporting in ACS Central Science have developed a method to visualize variations in polymers that arise with age.
At a glance:
Experiments in worms reveal the molecular damage caused by DEHP, a chemical commonly used to make plastics flexible
DEHP interferes with proper cell division during egg formation, leads to excessive DNA breakage, alters chromosome appearance
Abnormalities help explain known link between DEHP and human birth defects, male infertility
If replicated in further research, the insights can help inform regulatory changes, consumer choice
Scientists may have figured out how dust particles can stick together to form planets, according to a Rutgers co-authored study that may also help to improve industrial processes. In homes, adhesion on contact can cause fine particles to form dust bunnies. Similarly in outer space, adhesion causes dust particles to stick together. Large particles, however, can combine due to gravity – an essential process in forming asteroids and planets. But between these two extremes, how aggregates grow has largely been a mystery until now.
A Rutgers-led team of engineers has developed an automated way to produce polymers, making it much easier to create advanced materials aimed at improving human health. The innovation is a critical step in pushing the limits for researchers who want to explore large libraries of polymers, including plastics and fibers, for chemical and biological applications such as drugs and regenerative medicine through tissue engineering.
A team developed a method to apply pulsed-electron beams to image the beam-sensitive material with atomic resolution.
Too many of the plastic cups, chip bags, cigarette butts and take-out containers you see littering California’s beaches don’t stay on the sand. An estimated 17.6 billion pounds of plastic make their way into the world’s oceans annually, the equivalent of dumping a garbage truck full of plastic into the ocean every minute—and 80 percent of that comes directly from littering on land.