Scientists from US have created next-generation plastic named as Poly(Diketoenamine), or PDK that can be fully recycled for indefinite times. It can be fully recycled into new materials of any colour, shape, or form, without loss of performance or quality. It can also be disassembled into its constituent parts at the molecular level.
Problem with conventional Plastics
All conventional plastics are made up of large molecules called polymers, which are composed of repeating units of shorter carbon-containing compounds called monomers.
However, the problem with them is that the chemicals are added to give them specific characteristics — rigidity or flexibility. But these chemicals binds tightly to monomers and stay in the plastic even after it is been processed at recycling plant.
During processing, plastics with different chemical compositions are mixed together and ground into bits. After these mishmash plastics are melted to make new material, it is difficult to predict what properties it will inherit from the original plastic.
Unlike conventional plastics, monomers of PDK plastic could be recovered and freed from any compounded additives simply by putting material in highly acidic solution.
The acid breaks down PDK polymers into monomers and also allows monomers to be separated from entwined chemical additives that give plastic its look and feel.
Thus, PDK plastic can be disassembled into its constituent parts at molecular level and then reassembled into different shape, texture, and color again and again without loss of performance or quality.
It can find its applications in textiles, 3D printing, and foams. Besides, future research of incorporating PDK plastics with plant-based materials and other sustainable sources is undertaken to make it more environment friendly.