From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :
Prelims level : PDK, Polymerization
Mains level : Utility of PDK as advanced material
- The scientists have created a next-generation plastic that can be fully recycled into new materials of any colour, shape, or form, without loss of performance or quality.
- A team of researchers at the US Department of Energy’s Berkeley National Laboratory has designed a recyclable plastic called PDK.
- The monomers of PDK plastic could be recovered and freed from any compounded additives by placing the material in a highly acidic solution.
- It helps to break the bonds between the monomers and separate them from chemical additives.
- The recovered PDK monomers can be remade into polymers, and those recycled polymers can form new plastic materials without inheriting the colour or other features of the original material.
- They could also upcycle the plastic by adding additional features, such as flexibility.
Why most plastics cannot be recycled?
- Most plastics are made of polymers, chains of hydrogen and carbon which are chiefly derived from petroleum products like crude oil.
- Polymers are composed of shorter strands called monomers and the process is called polymerization.
- To give plastics certain characteristics like toughness, flexibility or color, certain chemicals are added which from strong bonds with the monomers.
- While many polymers are thermoplastic, meaning they can be melted down and reused, the additives bonded to them can interfere with the process.
- So when plastics are ground up and mixed together for recycling, all those additives make the final product unpredictable and lower quality.
- That’s why most recycled plastic is “downcycled” or turned into items like handbags or benches instead of completing the recycling loop.