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Supercomputers Shed Light on Breakdown of Plastics
Scientists from The Australian National University have used supercomputers to reveal how plastic items can be designed to withstand the sun for longer. The researchers, led by Associate Professor Michelle Coote and PhD student Anya Gryn’ova from the ARC Centre of Excellence for Free Radical Chemistry and Biotechnology at ANU, have used quantum chemistry and supercomputers to model polymer degradation and discovered how to make better, more robust plastics. Their work will be published in a special edition of The Royal Society Chemistry journal, Organic & Biomolecular Chemistry.
Historically scientists have thought that clothes pins and other plastics left out in the sun become brittle and fail due to a process called autoxidation. Exposure to light or heat generates free radicals, which are reactive species that attack the polymeric chains in the plastic causing them to rearrange and break. Crucially, each “broken” polymer chain is...