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Researchers Find Synthetic Fibers The Major Contributors of Environmental Pollution

Synthetic fibres are petroleum-based products, unlike natural fibres such as wool, cotton and silk, which are recyclable and biodegradable. 

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Synthetic fibres are petroleum-based products, unlike natural fibres such as wool, cotton and silk, which are recyclable and biodegradable.  Pixabay

Polyester and other synthetic fibres like nylon are major contributors of microplastics pollution in the environment, say researchers and suggest switching to biosynthetic fibres to prevent this.

“These materials, during production, processing and after use, break down and release microfibres that can now be found in everything and everyone,” said Melik Demirel, Professor at the Pennsylvania State University in the US.

Synthetic fibres are petroleum-based products, unlike natural fibres such as wool, cotton and silk, which are recyclable and biodegradable.

plastic
Bacteria that consume plastics do exist. However, they are currently at the academic research phase and will take some time to gain industrial momentum. Pixabay

Mixed fibres that contain both natural and synthetic fibres are difficult or costly to recycle.

In the oceans, pieces of microscopic plastic are consumed by plants and animals and enter the human food chain through harvested fish.

In the study, Demirel suggested few things to prevent this: minimising the use of synthetic fibres and switching to natural fibres such as wool, cotton, silk and linen, even though synthetic fibres are less expensive and natural fibres have other environmental costs, such as water and land-use issues; large scale use of bacteria that could aid in biodegradation of the fibres for reuse; substituting synthetic fibres with biosynthetic fibres, that are both recyclable and biodegradable; and blending synthetic fibres with natural fibres to lend them durability while also allowing the blends to be recycled.

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Polyester and other synthetic fibres like nylon are major contributors of microplastics pollution in the environment, say researchers and suggest switching to biosynthetic fibres to prevent this. Pixabay

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Bacteria that consume plastics do exist. However, they are currently at the academic research phase and will take some time to gain industrial momentum.

The study was presented at the 2019 annual meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science in the US. (IANS)

Next Story

Researchers Create Incredibly Lightweight 18-Carat Gold Using Plastic Matrix

The researchers can even adjust the hardness of the material by changing the composition of the gold

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Gold
According to the study, gold has the material properties of a plastic. If a piece of it falls onto a hard surface, it sounds like plastic. It, however, glimmers like metallic gold, and can be polished and worked into the desired form. Pixabay

A good news for jewellry lovers. The objects of their desire may someday become much lighter, but without losing any of their glitter – especially with gold watches, as researchers have created an incredibly lightweight 18-carat gold, using a matrix of plastic in place of metallic alloy elements.

According to the study, the research team from the Swiss university ETH Zurich have developed a new form of gold that weighs about five to ten times less than traditional 18-carat gold.

The conventional mixture is usually three-quarters gold and one-quarter copper, with a density of about 15 g/cm3, the study said. Study researchers Leonie van’t Hag, Raffaele Mezzenga and team used protein fibres and a polymer latex to form a matrix in which they embedded thin discs of gold nanocrystals.

In addition, the lightweight gold contains countless tiny air pockets invisible to the eye, said the study, published in the Advanced Functional Material. According to the researchers, gold platelets and plastic melt into a material that can be easily processed mechanically.

For the finding, the research team first added the ingredients to water and created a dispersion. After adding salt to turn the dispersion into a gel, they next replaced the water in it with alcohol.

Thereafter, they placed the alcohol gel into a pressure chamber, where high pressures and a supercritical CO2 atmosphere enables miscibility of the alcohol and the CO2 gas; when the pressure is released, everything turns it into a homogeneous gossamer-like aerogel.

Heat can be further applied afterwards to anneal the plastic polymers, thus transforming the material and compacting into the final desired shape, yet preserving the 18-carat composition, the researchers said.

According to the study, this gold has the material properties of a plastic. If a piece of it falls onto a hard surface, it sounds like plastic. It, however, glimmers like metallic gold, and can be polished and worked into the desired form.

Gold
A good news for jewellery lovers. The objects of their desire may someday become much lighter, but without losing any of their glitter – especially with gold watches, as researchers have created an incredibly lightweight 18-carat gold, using a matrix of plastic in place of metallic alloy elements. Pixabay

The researchers can even adjust the hardness of the material by changing the composition of the gold. They can also replace the latex in the matrix with other plastics, such as polypropylene. Since polypropylene liquifies at some specific temperature, ‘plastic gold’ made with it can mimic the gold melting process, yet at much lower temperatures.

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The researchers noted that, while plastic gold will be in particular demand in the manufacture of watches and jewellery, it is also suitable for chemical catalysis, electronics applications or radiation shielding. (IANS)