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News Release 06-153

Vitamin C and Water Not Just Healthy for People -- Healthy for Plastics, too

New manufacturing techniques may lead to cheaper, "greener" plastics

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Researchers are using vitamin C (background) to craft certain plastics more efficiently.

A new use for vitamin C (background) allows researchers to use less copper catalyst to drive powerful polymerization reactions critical for manufacturing many plastics.

Credit: National Science Foundation, adapted in part from a Carnegie Mellon graphic


Three tubes containing substances labeled ATRP, New ERA ATRP and FRP.

This image illustrates the power of the new ERA technology developed by researchers at Carnegie Mellon University. This environmentally friendly technology uses vitamin C or other electron-absorbing agents to reduce the amount of copper driving a plastic manufacturing technique known as ATRP. ATRP gives manufacturers a broader chemistry toolkit than the commercially used FRP technique, yet produces significant copper waste. In a series of test tubes, the dark solution (ATRP) contains a high amount of copper byproduct, while FRP contains none. The new, "green" ERA-ATRP process has the power of ATRP, creating nanoscale, uniform plastics with optimal functionality, but ERA is more efficient and yields a much clearer solution with less catalyst waste.

Credit: Krzysztof Matyjaszewski, Carnegie Mellon University

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