Plastics are ubiquitous in our daily lives, but their environmental impacts, such as the use of fossil fuels and growing amounts of waste, remain a major challenge. One solution could be bio-based plastics, which are made from renewable and inexpensive raw materials such as vanillin and can be broken down into recyclable building blocks by light. In this blog post we take a look at this fascinating technology and its application in the plastics industry.
Bio-based plastics from vanillin: Researchers recently presented an approach in the journal Angewandte Chemie in which bio-based plastics are produced from vanillin. For example, vanillin can be obtained from lignin, a by-product of pulp production. These plastics contain cross-linked polymers whose backbone is based on vanillin. Compared to traditional plastics, they are renewable and more environmentally friendly.
Light-triggered upcycling: In order to solve the problem of recycling bio-based plastics, the researchers have developed a mechanism that triggers the decomposition of the polymers by irradiating them with light. The developed vanillin derivatives absorb light at a wavelength of 300 nm and reach an excited state. This leads to a chemical reaction that causes the polymers to degrade. Since sunlight does not reach the earth at this wavelength, there is no risk of premature degradation. With this method, 60% of the monomers could be recovered and polymerized again without loss of quality.
Advantages and potential: The use of light-controlled, bio-based plastics made from vanillin offers numerous advantages:
- Sustainability: Producing plastics from renewable resources such as vanillin reduces the consumption of fossil raw materials and reduces the environmental impact.
- Environmental compatibility: The light-driven decomposition of the plastics is environmentally friendly and enables a targeted, spatial and temporal control of the decomposition process.
- Upcycling: Rather than downcycling, where materials lose value, light-triggered upcycling allows the recovery of monomers that can be reprocessed into high-value materials.
Conclusion: The innovative approach of producing plastics from vanillin and triggering their decomposition with the help of light is a promising step towards more sustainable plastics. This technology has the potential to change the way we make plastics and
recycle, transform it fundamentally and thus make an important contribution to tackling the environmental problems associated with plastic waste.
Outlook: The current research results are an encouraging step towards a greener plastics industry. However, there are still challenges that need to be addressed before this technology can be deployed on a large industrial scale. These include optimizing photosensitivity to achieve higher monomer recovery rates and scaling the process for mass production.
In the near future, further research could help further optimize the process of light-triggered upcycling technology and reduce the cost of producing bio-based plastics from vanillin. Through collaboration between academia, industry and regulators, this promising technology can help enable the transition to a more sustainable and greener future for the plastics industry.
Summary: In this blog post, we looked at the innovative technology of light-triggered upcycling technology for vanillin-based bio-based plastics. This eco-friendly and sustainable solution shows great potential for the future of the plastics industry and could help reduce the environmental impact of plastic waste. The continued development of this technology and its integration into the industry could represent an important step towards a greener and more sustainable future for plastics.
https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1002/anie.202203353 --> Dr. Ravichandranath Singathi et al.; Towards Upcycling Biomass-Derived Crosslinked Polymers with Light; Applied Chemistry International Edition; 2022