The world fell in love with plastics because they’re cheap, convenient, lightweight and long-lasting. For these same reasons, plastics are now trashing the Earth.
Chemists have announced in the journal Science another major step toward waste-free, sustainable materials that could one day compete with conventional plastics. Led by Eugene Chen, professor in the Department of Chemistry, they have discovered a polymer with many of the same characteristics we enjoy in plastics, such as lightweight, heat resistance, strength, and durability. But the new polymer, unlike typical petroleum plastics, can be converted back to its original small-molecule state for complete chemical recyclability. This can be accomplished without the use of toxic chemicals or intensive lab procedures.
Polymers are a broad class of materials characterized by long chains of chemically bonded, repeating molecular units called monomers. Synthetic polymers today include plastics, as well as fibers, ceramics, rubbers, coatings, and many other commercial products.
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