North West | Materials, extraction | Technology & innovation
Biomass-based recyclable polymers developed in St. Petersburg
8 Apr '21
A research team at the St. Petersburg State University (SPbSU) has completed polymer synthesis from biomass processing products.
The new polymers are easily recyclable, a property that would make them competitive when fine-tuned, fully studied and commercialized. Interim results of the research have been published in English in Green Chemistry.
At the heart of the new development are compounds that came from biomass, a renewable and very valuable source of feedstock for the chemical sector. The main component of such polymers are natural alcohols, for example, menthol derived from essential oils of mint, or borneol that comes from essential oils of the white fir.
The synthesized polymers are good enough for both recycling and disposal. In recycling, polymer-based materials can be decomposed down to basic substances at fairly moderate temperatures, and then re-polymerized again.
“The same pertains to disposal of materials based on our polymers. As they decompose in an oxygen-free environment, either natural alcohols or their derivatives come about as a result; the latter could be further reduced to the basic alcohol level, doing no harm to the environment whatsoever,” said Svetlana Metlyaeva of SPbSU.
According to the research team, this type of polymer can be fluxed at a temperature of around 120 degrees Celsius, and reshaped. It hardens well as it cools. The chemists are reported to have repeated the fluxing-hardening cycle seven times and found little or no change in the original properties of the polymer.