Given their ubiquity in contemporary society, it's no surprising we've talked a fair bit about plastics. But most of the time we've discussed them as a problem: something to be recycled, replaced with sugars and biopolymers, turned into compostable cellphones or banned outright in certain usages.
But in the interim, mollecular engineering scientists at Carnegie Mellon are now suggesting that it may be possible to produce plastics much more cheaply while producing far less industrial waste:
Radical polymerization is a process in which a polymer, a large molecule of repeating units, is created by adding one molecular subunit (or monomer) at a time to a growing chain. The researchers studied a slightly different version of this reactionknown as atom transfer radical polymerizationallows scientists precise control over the structure of the resulting polymer.
Obviously, the day can't come quickly enough when we use no petrochemicals to make disposable substances with toxic production trails. But until then, this process would seem a step in the right direction.