IBM and Stanford University researchers discovered a new types of environmentally sustainable plastics made out of plants. This breakthrough, could lead to a new type of plastic to replace the petroleum-based plastic.
The new discovery may have sustainability implications across a wide range of industries including biodegradable plastics, plastics recycling, healthcare and microelectronics. According to IBM
“We’re exploring new methods of applying technology and our expertise in materials science to create a sustainable, environmentally sound future,” said Josephine Cheng, IBM Fellow and vice president, IBM Research – Almaden. “The development of new families of organic catalysts brings more versatility to green chemistry and opens the door for novel applications, such as making biodegradable plastics, improving the recycling process and drug delivery.”
The petroleum-based plastic can be recycled only once, but with the new technology plastic can be recycled again and again. In the United States, up to 63 pounds of plastic packaging per-person is disposed of each year, instead of being repeatedly recycled. The IBM-Stanford breakthrough in green chemistry could lead to a new recycling process that reverses the polymerization process to regenerate monomers in their original state, reducing waste and pollution significantly.
These breakthroughs also hold promise for biomedical applications. For example, many effective drugs that are designed to target cancer cells are often so potent that they attack cancerous and healthy cells alike. The use of organocatalysis could help in the design of custom polymers that may aid in delivering drugs to a specific cell or region.