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 Despite government claims, orangutan populations have not increased. Call for better monitoring
06.11.2018 | Deutsches Zentrum für integrative Biodiversitätsforschung (iDiv) Halle-Jena-Leipzig

nachricht Increasing frequency of ocean storms could alter kelp forest ecosystems
30.10.2018 | University of Virginia

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: A Leap Into Quantum Technology

Faster and secure data communication: This is the goal of a new joint project involving physicists from the University of Würzburg. The German Federal Ministry of Education and Research funds the project with 14.8 million euro.

In our digital world data security and secure communication are becoming more and more important. Quantum communication is a promising approach to achieve...

Im Focus: Research icebreaker Polarstern begins the Antarctic season

What does it look like below the ice shelf of the calved massive iceberg A68?

On Saturday, 10 November 2018, the research icebreaker Polarstern will leave its homeport of Bremerhaven, bound for Cape Town, South Africa.

Im Focus: Penn engineers develop ultrathin, ultralight 'nanocardboard'

When choosing materials to make something, trade-offs need to be made between a host of properties, such as thickness, stiffness and weight. Depending on the application in question, finding just the right balance is the difference between success and failure

Now, a team of Penn Engineers has demonstrated a new material they call "nanocardboard," an ultrathin equivalent of corrugated paper cardboard. A square...

Im Focus: Coping with errors in the quantum age

Physicists at ETH Zurich demonstrate how errors that occur during the manipulation of quantum system can be monitored and corrected on the fly

The field of quantum computation has seen tremendous progress in recent years. Bit by bit, quantum devices start to challenge conventional computers, at least...

Im Focus: Nanorobots propel through the eye

Scientists developed specially coated nanometer-sized vehicles that can be actively moved through dense tissue like the vitreous of the eye. So far, the transport of nano-vehicles has only been demonstrated in model systems or biological fluids, but not in real tissue. The work was published in the journal Science Advances and constitutes one step further towards nanorobots becoming minimally-invasive tools for precisely delivering medicine to where it is needed.

Researchers of the “Micro, Nano and Molecular Systems” Lab at the Max Planck Institute for Intelligent Systems in Stuttgart, together with an international...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

VideoLinks
Industry & Economy
Event News

“3rd Conference on Laser Polishing – LaP 2018” Attracts International Experts and Users

09.11.2018 | Event News

On the brain’s ability to find the right direction

06.11.2018 | Event News

European Space Talks: Weltraumschrott – eine Gefahr für die Gesellschaft?

23.10.2018 | Event News

 
Latest News

In focus: Peptides, the “little brothers and sisters” of proteins

12.11.2018 | Life Sciences

Materials scientist creates fabric alternative to batteries for wearable devices

12.11.2018 | Materials Sciences

A two-atom quantum duet

12.11.2018 | Physics and Astronomy

VideoLinks
Science & Research
Overview of more VideoLinks >>>