Plastic waste floating in the sea in Marseille on May 30, 2019. Photo Credit: Boris Horvat/AFP via Getty Images

EnvironmentTechnology Japan6. January 2024

“Self-Healing” Biodegradable Plastic Could Replace Its Weak Counterpart

A team of researchers based in Tokyo, Japan, has developed an eco-friendly, self-healing plastic that could be a game-changer for many industries and the planet.

“VPR is over five times as resistant to breaking as a typical epoxy resin vitrimer,” explains Professor Shota Ando from the Graduate School of Frontier Sciences. “It also repairs itself 15 times as fast, can recover its original memorized shape twice as fast, and can be chemically recycled 10 times as fast as the typical vitrimer.”

In 2011, vitrimer plastic was discovered by French researcher Ludwik Leibler. Contrary to vitrimer, which tends to be brittle and weak when manipulated, VPR – which stands for vitrimer incorporated with polyotraxane [PR] – is remarkably strong at cooler temperatures. The chemical bonds in this eco-plastic can “recombine,” and the material can be remoulded at a temperature above 150 degrees Celsius. While vitrimer shows no signs of biodegradation, VPR does safely in seawater: in just 30 days, 25% of the VPR material biodegrades. The polyotraxane breaks down into a food source for marine life. “Existing plastics are tough to recover and dispose of because they are subdivided according to their uses. Solving many problems with a single material like this would be ideal.”

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