Universal Dynamic Crosslinking for Compatibilizing and Upcycling Immiscible Mixed Plastic

A Better Plastic to Recycle

At a Glance

Researchers at Colorado State University and Columbia University have developed several universal dynamic crosslinkers (UDCs) that can be used to compatibilize and upcycle immiscible mixed plastics. After dynamic crosslinking, the new thermosetting materials are recrossable, and exhibit enhanced tensile strength and creep resistance relative to individual virgin plastics. This approach avoids the need for deconstruction and reconstruction of plastics, providing a straightforward recovery of the endowed energy and materials value of the individual plastics in mixed plastics.

Background

The global use of plastics contributes to a pollution crisis, while also demanding significant amounts of energy, and contributing to climate change. There is a growing social consciousness about the impact of plastics and numerous strategies have been proposed or developed to address various aspects of the plastics problem. One of the largest challenges for attempts to recycle and upcycle these materials is that nearly all postconsumer plastics exist in incompatible mixed-waste streams. Current strategies to manage mixed plastic waste are typically either energy-intensive, result in downcycling, or create products that are no longer reprocessable/recyclable.

Overview

The design and development of several UDCs enable an optimal closed-loop upcycling path for immiscible multicomponent plastics. UDCs reactivate dead chains in the mixed plastics to dynamically crosslink them into compatibilized, grafted multiblock copolymers with superior properties and without the need for deconstruction or reconstruction. UDCs can be used for any polymer containing saturated C-H bonds, individually or in mixtures. The resulting upcycled materials can be used and reprocessed through multiple cycles and have enhanced performance over virgin plastics.

Benefits

  • Simple derivation of UDCs enables potential scalability
  • Crosslinking procedure is air and moisture tolerant
  • No deconstruction/reconstruction of plastics
  • Enhanced Tensile Strength
  • Enhanced Creep Resistance
  • Effective for mixed plastics including post-consumer plastic waste and immiscible plastic mixtures
  • Works with any polymer containing saturated C-H bonds, individually or in mixtures

Applications

  • Plastic recycling
  • Plastic upcycling
  • Plastic production and packaging materials
Last Updated: November 2023
Image of mixed plastic products and a recycling logo
Opportunity

Available for Licensing
TRL: 2

IP Status
Inventors

Eugene Chen
Tomislav Rovis
Ryan Clarke
Tobias Sandmeier
Kevin Franklin
Dominik Reich

Reference Number
2022-055
Licensing Manager

Aly Hoeher
Aly.Hoeher@colostate.edu
970-491-7100