Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Ashes to ashes, dust to dust

21.07.2006
Plastic littering the countryside could soon be a thing of the past. Researchers have come up with an additive that enables plastic bags to be quickly decomposed by sun and rain.

Nor-X Industry AS, a company located in Sunnmøre, has launched the additive that makes plastic decompose in a short time when exposed to light and humidity. The additive also makes the plastic considerably stronger, and it is cheap to produce. This is all the result of a collaboration between the company and SINTEF, which began in 1999.

Morbid start

The relationship started when Nor-X Industry’s parent company, NorMors AS, wanted to make chin-collars to enable dead people to look nicer in their coffins. They wanted the collars to start the decomposing process after the burial so they contacted SINTEF to solve the problem. The research scientists were successful in finding an additive on the market that had the desired effect.

But there was one problem: the collars became dark and extremely visible, but the aim was for them to be as neutral as possible. This was difficult to achieve with the additives available on the market. The solution turned up together with a newly appointed research scientist from France. He suggested an idea to alter the additive so the end product would be lighter. This provided the desired result and the colour of the end product was virtually perfect. However, at that stage the manufacturing was so expensive that it would not have been economically viable in a manufacturing process.

Industrialised

The research collaboration developed further through “SkatteFunn” tax incentive scheme project. The objective now was an additive for plastic that could be handled industrially and used in plastic foil, plastic bags and food packaging. The product is a ferric organic compound. If it is added during manufacturing, it will provide both a rapid decomposition and a light colour. The results were so promising that NorMors started the new company, Nor-X Industry, to handle production and marketing.

The technology behind it

“Polyethylene and polypropylene, which we are talking about here, are sensitive to ultraviolet light, so we are just talking about assisting nature a bit,” says SINTEF senior research scientist Ferdinand Männle.

In addition to light, a little humidity, heat and oxygen are required, all of which are abundantly available in nature. Nevertheless, an ordinary polyethylene bag would take more than a year before it began to decompose, but the new plastic bags will break down quicker than an apple on the ground. After two weeks in sunlight, the bags will still have 90 percent of their strength, but after five weeks only traces will remain.

The decomposition process occurs in several stages. Firstly, the light cuts the molecules in the plastic down to such small pieces that they are ideal food for micro organisms. The satisfied micro organisms are in turn eaten by others and play a part in the food chain. The end products, which are common materials in nature, can be found in plants, moss and perhaps in earthworms. The amount of rust that remains will be so minute that it will be virtually impossible to measure. The concentration of iron in the plastic is so low that in numerical terms it would be some parts per million.

Other uses

In addition to conventional shopping bags, plastic for silo bales in agriculture is another actual use. As this plastic contains formic acid, no one is willing to recycle it. The bales need to last at least a year to satisfy users, and the alternative is to add a less aggressive form of the additive in the plastic so that it only begins to decompose after 18 months.

Nor-X Industry has also reached an agreement with the German Farmers’ Co-operative to produce an agricultural film foil for the fields around Berlin. The film will keep the soil warm in Spring and protect against the fear of frosty nights when farmers have planted potatoes. It will start to decompose after four to six weeks.

Research is currently underway on additives in several other contexts, including for use in oil protection preparedness. The product has shown that it has the capacity to materialise and break down oil.

Aase Dragland | alfa
Further information:
http://www.sintef.no

More articles from Ecology, The Environment and Conservation:

nachricht Dune ecosystem modelling
26.06.2017 | Albert-Ludwigs-Universität Freiburg im Breisgau

nachricht Understanding animal social networks can aid wildlife conservation
23.06.2017 | Leibniz-Institut für Gewässerökologie und Binnenfischerei (IGB)

All articles from Ecology, The Environment and Conservation >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Can we see monkeys from space? Emerging technologies to map biodiversity

An international team of scientists has proposed a new multi-disciplinary approach in which an array of new technologies will allow us to map biodiversity and the risks that wildlife is facing at the scale of whole landscapes. The findings are published in Nature Ecology and Evolution. This international research is led by the Kunming Institute of Zoology from China, University of East Anglia, University of Leicester and the Leibniz Institute for Zoo and Wildlife Research.

Using a combination of satellite and ground data, the team proposes that it is now possible to map biodiversity with an accuracy that has not been previously...

Im Focus: Climate satellite: Tracking methane with robust laser technology

Heatwaves in the Arctic, longer periods of vegetation in Europe, severe floods in West Africa – starting in 2021, scientists want to explore the emissions of the greenhouse gas methane with the German-French satellite MERLIN. This is made possible by a new robust laser system of the Fraunhofer Institute for Laser Technology ILT in Aachen, which achieves unprecedented measurement accuracy.

Methane is primarily the result of the decomposition of organic matter. The gas has a 25 times greater warming potential than carbon dioxide, but is not as...

Im Focus: How protons move through a fuel cell

Hydrogen is regarded as the energy source of the future: It is produced with solar power and can be used to generate heat and electricity in fuel cells. Empa researchers have now succeeded in decoding the movement of hydrogen ions in crystals – a key step towards more efficient energy conversion in the hydrogen industry of tomorrow.

As charge carriers, electrons and ions play the leading role in electrochemical energy storage devices and converters such as batteries and fuel cells. Proton...

Im Focus: A unique data centre for cosmological simulations

Scientists from the Excellence Cluster Universe at the Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität Munich have establised "Cosmowebportal", a unique data centre for cosmological simulations located at the Leibniz Supercomputing Centre (LRZ) of the Bavarian Academy of Sciences. The complete results of a series of large hydrodynamical cosmological simulations are available, with data volumes typically exceeding several hundred terabytes. Scientists worldwide can interactively explore these complex simulations via a web interface and directly access the results.

With current telescopes, scientists can observe our Universe’s galaxies and galaxy clusters and their distribution along an invisible cosmic web. From the...

Im Focus: Scientists develop molecular thermometer for contactless measurement using infrared light

Temperature measurements possible even on the smallest scale / Molecular ruby for use in material sciences, biology, and medicine

Chemists at Johannes Gutenberg University Mainz (JGU) in cooperation with researchers of the German Federal Institute for Materials Research and Testing (BAM)...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

Plants are networkers

19.06.2017 | Event News

Digital Survival Training for Executives

13.06.2017 | Event News

Global Learning Council Summit 2017

13.06.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

New 3-D model predicts best planting practices for farmers

26.06.2017 | Agricultural and Forestry Science

New research reveals impact of seismic surveys on zooplankton

26.06.2017 | Life Sciences

Correct connections are crucial

26.06.2017 | Health and Medicine

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>