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Neutron study could make plastic production more environmentally friendly

8 October 2018

Research carried out at the UK’s neutron and muon beam research facility could help to make the process of making plastic more environmentally friendly.

The environmental issues surrounding plastic are well-documented, with recent headlines highlighting the issue of waste plastic being dumped in the ocean. But it is not just the material itself that has an impact on the planet, as the manufacturing process itself also causes issues.

One of the chemicals currently used as a catalyst (an additive to help speed up the process), called VCM, is toxic and potentially explosive – but a staggering 13 million tons is created every year for plastic production. Researchers from the UK, China and the USA have used the Merlin instrument at STFC’s ISIS Neutron and Muon Source facility to investigate a substitute chemical that is more environmentally friendly, called a gold-on-carbon catalyst.

Although the gold-on-carbon catalyst does work, scientists don’t yet know how. The study carried out at ISIS will help to fill in the gaps of current knowledge, so a more environmentally-sound catalyst can be produced, without losing performance.

For more information, visit the ISIS website.

Science and Technology Facilities Council
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