University of Birmingham and Duke University scientists have created a new family of polymers from sustainable sources. These sources retain all of the qualities of common plastics. It is degradable and mechanically recyclable.
Researchers have used sugar-based starting materials other than petrochemical derivatives and made two new polymers. One is stretchable like rubber and another is tough but ductile.
Scientists made new polymers by using isoidide and isomannide as building blocks. The things are made from sugar alcohols and feature a rigid ring of atoms. Scientists found that the isoidide-based polymer have a stiffness and malleability like common plastics. The strength is similar to high grade engineering plastics such as Nylon-6.
Other than isoidide and isomannide, differing by the 3D spatial orientation of two bonds is known as stereochemistry. Here the isomannide-based material had similar strength and also have high elasticity and recovery rate. The materials retained their excellent mechanical properties by pulverization and thermal processing. This is the usual method for mechanically recycling plastics.
Cutting-edge computational modelling simulated the polymer chains pack. It interacted to produce such different polymer properties. The 3D shapes of the sugar derivatives facilitate different movements. The interaction of the long chains caused the huge difference in physical properties.
Scientists created copolymers which have both isoidide and isomannide units. Scientists thought they can control the mechanical properties and degradation rates independently of one another. The system opens the door of using unique shapes of sugars to independently tune the degradability for a specific use. The chemical similarity of the polymers means, a lot of current commodity plastics can be blended together to yield materials with comparable properties.