News in Brief
10-03 :: March 2010
New Types of Biodegradable, Biocompatible Plastics
atthew K. Kiesewetter, Eun Ji Shin, James L. Hedrick and Robert M. Waymouth from IBM
Almaden Research Center in San Jose, USA, IBM (NYSE: IBM), and Stanford Uni- versity have published a paper that could lead to the develop-
ment of new types of biodegra- dable, biocompatible plastics.
The result of a multi-year research effort, the breakthrough also could lead to a new recycling process that has the potential to significantly increase the ability to recycle and reuse common PET and plant-based plastics in the future. The paper outlines how and why organocatalysis provides new opportunities for the preparation of sustainable plastics. Through the introduc- tion of organic catalysis to synthetic polymer chemi- stry, scientists have developed a broadly applicable technology with demonstrations in a diverse range of polymerization techniques and monomer types. A major focus of their efforts has been on ring-opening polymerization, a strategy dominated by metal oxide or metal hydroxide catalysts. They have shown that organic catalysts both exhibit activities that rival the most active metal-based catalysts, and provide access to polymer architectures that are difficult to access by conventional approaches.
The paper outlines the development of several new
families of highly active, environmentally benign organic catalysts for the conversion of renewable resources to products that exhi- bit cost/performance characteri- stics comparable to existing ma-
terials. The paper also describes recycling or degradation strate- gies that would enable a “closed- loop” life cycle for materials that meet the needs of the market- place while helping to minimize the environmental footprint left for future generations. Additio- nally, the team has developed a new strategy for the synthesis of high molecular weight cyclic polyesters and the generation of new families of biocompatible polymers.
Matthew K. Kiesewetter, Eun Ji Shin, James L. Hedrick and Robert M. Waymouth: Organocatalysis: Opportunities and Challenges for Polymer Synthesis, In: Macromolecules, Vol. 43(2010), Issue 5, March 9, 2010, Pages 2093-2107, DOI:10.1021/ma9025948: http://dx.doi.org/10.1021/ma9025948
Image: Jim Hedrick, a researcher at IBM’s Research facility in San Jose, CA, works on new formulas that could make it easier to recycle the 13 billion plastic bottles disposed of each year globally. © Monica M. Davey/IBM