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Transforming plastic waste into useful aerogels

By Paul Grad |

Plastic-bottle waste is toxic and non-biodegradable, and has become a major environmental issue. It often ends up in the oceans, affecting marine life, or in landfills, contaminating groundwater and affecting land use. Now a team led by professors Nhan Phan-Thien and Hai Minh Duong, from the National University of Singapore (Singapore; www.nus.edu.sg), has developed recycled polyethylene tetraphthalate (rPET) silica aerogels using rPET fibers obtained from plastic bottle waste via sol-gel and ambient-pressure drying methods. The team prepared the rPET aerogels through a direct gelation of silica onto PET. rPET fibers are treated with dichloromethane to partially dissolve the fibers. The fibers were then dipped and allowed to swell in a mixture of tetraethoxysilane (TEOS) and ethanol, with the pH controlled to 2.5 using HCl to promote hydrolysis. After acid hydrolysis, the pH was controlled to 7 with an ammonium hydroxide solution to promote condensation. New aerogel materials containing recycled plastics have properties such as lightness, softness and flexibilityNew aerogel materials containing recycled plastics have properties such as lightness, softness and flexibilithhhvfhjyutkjj, making them suitable for many industrial applications,…
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