DN Staff

March 12, 2010

2 Min Read
New IBM Technology Can Recover Plastic Waste

An IBM-Stanford breakthrough reverses the polymerizationprocess to regenerate monomers in their original state, reducing waste andpollution significantly.

The new technology may have sustainability implicationsacross a wide range of industries including biodegradable plastics, plasticsrecycling, healthcare and microelectronics.

A new recycling process based on the concept has thepotential to significantly increase the ability to recycle and reuse common PETand plant-based plastics in the future.

"We're exploring new methods of applying technology andour expertise in materials science to create a sustainable, environmentallysound future," says Josephine Cheng, IBM Fellow and vice president, IBMResearch - Almaden. "Thedevelopment of new families of organic catalysts brings more versatility togreen chemistry and opens the door for novel applications, such as makingbiodegradable plastics, improving the recycling process and drug delivery."

More than 13 billion plastic bottles are consumed eachyear. The total plastic bottle recycling rate in the U.S was 27 percent in2008, up from 24 percent in 2007, according to a reportfrom the American Chemistry Council.

Recycled plastic bottles are limited to "second-generationreuse," such as motor oil bottles. This means the materials made from recycledplastic bottles are disposed in landfills. In the U.S., up to 63 lb of plasticpackaging per person is disposed of each year, instead of being repeatedlyrecycled.

If plastic waste can be regenerated into their originalmonomers, a significant amount of waste could be avoided. It wasn't clear whatthe economics of the new process are.

IBM is also collaborating with scientists from KingAbdulaziz City for Science and Technology (KACST) to develop the recyclingprocess for polyethylene terephthalate (PET) plastics, which is used incontainers for food, beverages and other liquids.

These breakthroughs also hold promise for biomedicalapplications. For example, many effective drugs designed to target cancer cellsare often so potent that they attack cancerous and healthy cells alike. The useof organocatalysis could help in the design of custom polymers that may aid indelivering drugs to a specific cell or region.

Click here to watch the video "IBM and Stanford Collaborate on GreenChemistry Breakthrough"

New IBM Technology Can Recover Plastic Waste

New IBM Technology Can Recover Plastic Waste_A

Sign up for the Design News Daily newsletter.

You May Also Like