With this new science, plastics could see a second life as biodegradable surfactants

Scientists at the Institute for Cooperative Upcycling of Plastics (iCOUP) have discovered a chemical process that provides biodegradable chemicals, which are used as surfactants and detergents in a range of applications, from discarded plastics.

Read more

Polystyrene waste is everywhere; scientists just found a way to break it down

Scientists at the U.S. Department of Energy’s Ames Laboratory and their partners from Clemson University have discovered a green, low-energy process to break down polystyrene, a type of plastic that is widely used in foam packaging materials, disposable food containers, cutlery, and many other applications.

Read more

Microplastic Sizes in Hudson-Raritan Estuary and Coastal Ocean Revealed

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.

Read more

Researchers discover new way to deliver DNA-based therapies for diseases

University of Minnesota Twin Cities researchers have created a new polymer to deliver DNA and RNA-based therapies for diseases. For the first time in the industry, the researchers were able to see exactly how polymers interact with human cells when delivering medicines into the body. This discovery opens the door for more widespread use of polymers in applications like gene therapy and vaccine development.

Read more

Seeking the Most Effective Polymers for Personal Protective Equipment

Personal protective equipment, like face masks and gowns, is generally made of polymers. But not much attention is typically given to the selection of polymers used beyond their physical properties. To help with the identification of materials that will bind to a virus and speed its inactivation for use in PPE, researchers have developed a high-throughput approach for analyzing the interactions between materials and viruslike particles. They report their method in the journal Biointerphases.

Read more

Inducing Plasma in Biomass Could Make Biogas Easier to Produce

Producing biogas from the bacterial breakdown of biomass presents options for a greener energy future, but the complex composition of biomass comes with challenges. Cellulose and woody lignocellulose are especially hard for bacteria to digest but pretreatment can make it easier. Researchers are testing plasma formation in biomass and finding a promising method: A plasma-liquid interaction forms reactive species that help break down the biomass and decrease the viscosity of the biomass material.

Read more

Polymers Prevent Potentially Hazardous Mist During Dentist Visit

If the mist in a dentist’s office — sent flying into the air by spinning, vibrating tools — contains a virus or some other pathogen, it is a health hazard for dentists and patients. So researchers in Illinois studied the viscoelastic properties of food-grade polymers and discovered that the forces of a vibrating tool or dentist’s drill are no match for them. Not only did a small admixture of polymers completely eliminate aerosolization, but it did so with ease.

Read more

Ultrafast lasers probe elusive chemistry at the liquid-liquid interface

Real-time measurements captured by researchers at the Department of Energy’s Oak Ridge National Laboratory provide missing insight into chemical separations to recover cobalt, a critical raw material used to make batteries and magnets for modern technologies.

Read more

Membrane Technology Could Cut Emissions and Energy Use in Oil Refining

New membrane technology developed by a team of researchers from the Georgia Institute of Technology, Imperial College London, and ExxonMobil could help reduce carbon emissions and energy intensity associated with refining crude oil. Laboratory testing suggests that this polymer membrane technology could replace some conventional heat-based distillation processes in the future.

Read more

Research: Key Detergent Polymers Pose Low Risk to Surface Waters

Newly published research indicates that an important ingredient used in detergents and cleaning products pose a low ecological risk to waterways. The study, “Environmental risk assessment of polycarboxylate polymers used in cleaning products in the United States,” is published in Chemosphere and is now available via open access. The research was conducted by American Cleaning Institute (ACI), Integral Consulting, Inc. and The Procter and Gamble Company.

Read more

Creating Miracles with Polymeric Fibers

Mohan Edirisinghe leads a team at University College London studying the fabrication of polymeric nanofibers and microfibers — very thin fibers made up of polymers. The fibers can be woven into textilelike structures but depending on the use, different fiber thicknesses may be necessary. To study the effects of various parameters on fiber fabrication, the researchers compared the characteristics of fibers created in different ways. The group describes the work in Applied Physics Reviews.

Read more