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Home > News > Chemicals

Chemists develop new catalyst for easier, cleaner Nylon-6 degradation

Source:Adsale Plastics Network Date :2024-01-11 Editor :RC
Copyright: This article was originally written/edited by Adsale Plastics Network (AdsaleCPRJ.com), republishing and excerpting are not allowed without permission. For any copyright infringement, we will pursue legal liability in accordance with the law.

Northwestern University chemists developed a new catalyst that can quickly, cleanly and completely breaks down strong and durable Nylon-6 in a couple of minutes, without generating harmful byproducts. This helps remedy pollution problem and also allows upcycling Nylon-6 waste into higher-value products.

 

Challenge and limitation of present situation

 

Nylon-6 is found in everyday applications, from clothing to carpet to seat belts. According to the World Wildlife Federation, up to 1 million tons of fishing gear is abandoned in the ocean each year, with fishing nets composed of Nylon-6 making up at least 46% of the Great Pacific Garbage Patch.


Northwestern Uni_fish net pollution_480.jpg

Abandoned fishing nets cause serious environmental pollution problem.

 

Although other laboratories have explored catalysts to degrade Nylon-6, those catalysts require extreme conditions (such as temperatures as high as 350°C), high-pressure steam and toxic solvents, which leads to more pollution.

 

Cleaner and more efficient catalyst

 

The new catalyst harnesses yttrium, an inexpensive Earth-abundant metal, and lanthanide ions.

 

When Nylon-6 samples are heated to melting temperatures and catalyst applied without a solvent, the plastic falls apart and reverts to its original building blocks without leaving byproducts behind. In this way, the catalyst breaks down the polymer and recover the monomer.

 

In experiments, the research team were able to recover 99% of plastics’ original monomers. In principle, those monomers can then be upcycled into higher-value products, featuring strength and durability.

 

In addition to recovering high yield of monomers, the catalyst is highly selective, meaning that it only acts on Nylon-6 polymers without disrupting surrounding materials. This implies that industry can apply the catalyst to large volumes of unsorted waste and selectively target Nylon-6, resulting more efficient recycling.

 

After filing a patent for the new process, the research team have already received interest from potential industrial partners. They hope the catalyst can be applied on large scale to help solve the global plastic problem.


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