IBM Research scientists find new way to recycle polycarbonates into BPA-free plastics

IBM Research scientists have discovered a new way to recycle polycarbonates into a stronger type of plastic that does not leach BPA chemical. Polycarbonates are hard plastics that decompose and leach toxic chemicals like BPA into the environment.

Polycarbonates are used in baby bottles, CDs and eyeglass lenses, among other substances. The discovery was made at IBM’s Almaden Research Center in San Jose city in the United States.

The scientists added a fluoride reactant and heat to old CDs to create the new plastic that will not leach BPA. “We exploited the inherent instability of the polycarbonate to break it down and make it into something else,” said Almaden lab polymer chemist Jeannette Garcia.

This new plastic is durable, easy to mold and resistant to certain temperatures, making it well suited for use in water purification, fiber optics and medical equipment.

Gavin Jones also worked with Ms. Garcia on the research. The study has been published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America journal. Ms. Garcia hopes that this new process will get chemical manufacturers, recycling plants and others thinking about new ways to transform polycarbonates into useful materials.

“We’re looking for partners at this point to push it forward and bring it to the next level and start using the methodology and exploring what other materials we can make and what the scope of this is,” said Ms. Garcia.

IBM Research said that over 2.7 million tons of polycarbonates are created worldwide for consumer goods such as LED screens and smartphones. IBM Research stated this citing data from the American Chemical Society.


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