Boffins develop novel approach to make polystyrene biodegradable
From our ANI Correspondent
London, Sept 5: Chinese scientists have developed a novel approach to make foam polystyrene biodegradable. Foam polystyrene is used as a protective packaging for all sorts of products, but it is not biodegradable.
Previously manufacturers have tried making it more environmentally friendly by incorporating cellulose and starch, which microbes can break down, or by adding light-sensitive polymers that degrade in sunlight.
However, as, Shanpu Ya and colleagues at the Polymer Science and Engineering College of Quingdao University of Science and Technology in China found, all these methods have serious disadvantages.
In particular, it took too long time for polymers to break down in these ways, they said.
The team has now developed a new approach that involves embedding water-absorbing resin particles about five micromeres in diameter throughout a chemical like styrene before it is polymerised to form a polystyrene-like material.
When the resulting solid comes into contact with water, the resin particles expand, reducing the polymer structure to a powder that should then biodegrade.
The team says that by altering the ratio of ingredients, it is also possible to control the rate of disintegration.
A crucial factor, the scientists say, is that the resulting foamed polystyrene is cheaper than conventional materials and should therefore be readily adopted by cost-conscious companies that also want to be environmentally responsible.
The team has applied for a patent for their water disintegrable polystyrene foam, reports New Scientist.