A lab operated by tech giant IBM has developed a one-step method for recycling polycarbonate electronic items into high-performance engineering plastics.
Staffers at IBM Research in San Jose, Calif. discovered a chemical process to convert polycarbonates into plastics safe for water purification, fiber optics and medical equipment.
“Polycarbonates are common plastics in our society – especially in consumer electronics in the form of LED screens, smartphones and Blu-rays,” Gavin O. Jones, a research staff member at the IBM Research, stated in a press release.
IBM Research is an innovation division within the larger IBM corporation. It operates 12 labs around the world.
Another researcher at the San Jose lab, Jeanette Garcia, called the e-plastics advancement “an environmental win on many fronts.”
“While preventing these plastics from entering landfills, we simultaneously recycle the substance into a new type of plastic – safe and strong enough for purifying our water and producing medical equipment,” she said.
IBM’s work involved recycling old CDs by adding a fluoride reactant, a base and heat. The process creates a type of thermoplastic polymer called polyaryl ether sulfone.
A research paper on the findings was published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, a peer-reviewed journal.