In a new study published online on November 12, 2014 in the peer-reviewed journal Angewandte Chemie International Edition, researchers from North Dakota State University, U.S. introduce new photodegradable plastics. To form the new polymeric materials, Rajendran and colleagues heated a solution of monomeric building blocks derived from fructose and molecules with 2-nitrobenzyl moiety that are capable of absorbing ultraviolet (UV) light. When exposed to UV light at about 350 nm, the UV absorbing molecules break off from the polymer chains, which triggers degradation of the plastics. The research team demonstrated that the new plastics can dissolve into a clear solution after being exposed to UV light for three hours, which indicates that they were completely reduced to their soluble monomers. Eventually, the monomers can be recovered and used to resynthesize the polymers. The authors consider their strategy to have a real potential to create novel materials from biomass that are degradable with light after usage, thus reducing the environmental burden of plastics.

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XiaoZhi Lim (November 19, 2014). “A plastic that recycles itself.Science Magazine


Rajendran, S. et al. (2014). “Programmed photodegradation of polymeric/oligomeric materials derived from renewable bioresources.Angewandte Chemie International Edition (published online November 12, 2014)