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Turning plastic into foam to fight air pollution

Foam construction for varied temperatures and pressures. The bulkiest foams have the biggest air pockets and are good for flotation gadgets. Credit: Heon Park

Biodegradable plastics are presupposed to be good for the atmosphere. But as a result of they’re particularly made to degrade shortly, they can’t be recycled.

In Physics of Fluids, researchers from the University of Canterbury in New Zealand have developed a way to show biodegradable plastic knives, spoons, and forks right into a foam that can be utilized as insulation in partitions or in flotation gadgets.

The investigators positioned the cutlery, which was beforehand considered “nonfoamable” plastic, right into a chamber crammed with carbon dioxide. As pressure elevated, the fuel dissolved into the plastic.

When they abruptly launched the stress within the chamber, the carbon dioxide expanded throughout the plastic, creating foaming. Author Heon Park stated the method is like opening a can of soda and releasing the carbonation.

“Tweaking temperature and pressure, there is a window where we can make good foams,” stated Park. “It’s not that every temperature or every pressure works. We found what temperature or what pressure is the best to make those nonfoamable plastics into foams.”

Each time plastic is recycled, it loses a little bit of its energy. Foams are a super new materials, as a result of they aren’t required to be robust in lots of functions.

“Whenever we recycle, each time, we degrade the plastics,” stated Park. “Let’s say we have a biodegradable spoon. We use it once, and we recycle it back into another spoon. It may break in your mouth.”

The excellent construction of a foam depends upon its closing use. Bulky foams, which have massive or plentiful air pockets, are good for buoys. The researchers discovered, opposite to what was beforehand thought, decrease chamber pressures led to cumbersome foams.

Making biodegradable plastics recyclable may alleviate among the world air pollution downside. While biodegradable materials ultimately breaks down in nature, it’s even higher for the atmosphere if plastics may be repurposed.

Biodegradable and recyclable plastics can be utilized greater than as soon as however are additionally much less of an environmental risk in the event that they find yourself in oceans or landfills. The staff believes this course of might be carried out on a big scale.

“We can expand foaming applications to a lot of plastics, not just this plastic,” stated Park.

New material inspired by spider silk could help solve our plastic problem

More info:
“Recycling and rheology of poly(lactic acid) (PLA) to make foams using supercritical fluid” Physics of Fluids, DOI: 10.1063/5.0050649

Turning plastic into foam to fight air pollution (2021, June 29)
retrieved 29 June 2021
from https://phys.org/news/2021-06-plastic-foam-combat-pollution.html

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