New polybutadiene molecules are combined into square chains, creating a special microstructure. It allows the synthetic rubber to depolymerize under certain conditions, which expands its possibilities for closed-loop recycling.
As the amount of rubber and plastic waste on the planet continues to grow, scientists are increasingly looking to the promise of closed-loop recycling systems to reduce waste. A group of researchers from the Department of Chemistry at Princeton University announces the discovery of a new molecule, polybutadiene. Scientists are confident that one day it will help reduce waste by depolymerizing rubber.
Nature Chemistry reports that during polymerization, the (1, n’-divinyl) oligocyclobutane molecule is combined into a repeating sequence of squares, a previously unrealized microstructure that allows the process to reverse or depolymerize under certain conditions.
In other words, butadiene can be “buttoned” to create a new polymer; it can then be “unpacked” to give a pure monomer for reuse.
Research is still in its infancy and material characteristics are yet to be carefully studied. However, scientists have already created a conceptual precedent for chemical conversion that is not usually considered practical for certain commercial materials.
The fact is that in the past, depolymerization was carried out using expensive niche or specialized polymers and only after many stages, but never from such a common raw material as that used to produce polybutadiene, one of the seven leading petrochemical products in the world. Butadiene is a common organic compound and a major byproduct in fossil fuel development. Synthetic rubber and plastic products are made from it. Thus, the discovery of a new molecule paves the way for chemically recyclable plastics.