Super Glue has been around since the 1940s when the sticky properties of a compound called ethyl cyanoacrylate were discovered. The material’s properties create an incredibly strong adhesive bond which can stick to almost anything. Super glues are valued for their resistance to temperature and moisture. Now researchers are looking for other uses for Super Glue, specifically to convert it into a plastic that can be recycled repeatedly. Researchers from Boise State University are using Super Glue as a starting material to develop a low cost recyclable and easily produced transparent plastic.
The plastic is called polyethyl cyanoacrylate and has similar properties to the plastics used in single-use cutlery, cups and packaging. This new type of plastic can be easily converted back to its starting materials. The researchers are using the same properties found in Super Glue such as its ability to stick to everything to produce a strong plastic.
The Super Glue is mixed with acetone and an eco-friendly catalyst. When the mixture dries, it produces a solid, glassy plastic. The researchers produced up to 10 pounds of the material in a couple of days and turned it into usable plastic products. This is a much simpler process compared with how other types of plastics are made. The researchers also found that heating up the plastic after it dries allowed them to shape the material into other products and strengthened the plastic.
Some of the benefits that come from this type of plastic are that it isn’t made from oil like many plastics today are made from and it is easy to recycle. When the new plastic is heated, the molecules are broken apart and resemble the molecules found in Super Glue. The molecules will then turn into vapor that are easy to separate out from a mixed waste stream. The process provided a 93 percent yield of the original molecules. Once collected and cooled, it can be turned back into the new plastic.
This new type of plastic could be used to replace polystyrene which is used to make stiff plastic objects like cutlery and disposable razors. It is one of the most widely produced and least recycled types of plastic being used today. Super Glue plastic has properties similar to polystyrene as it is light, durable, cheap, easy to mass produce, and could replace other forms of unsustainable plastics. Super Glue is already being produced on an industrial scale, which means that making this new type of plastic is not impossible. Although the new plastic may be made up of harmful chemicals such as acetone, it might out way the costs due to being recycled multiple times.
Alternatives to fossil fuel-based plastic exist; now it’s time to focus on these alternatives and find more sustainable ways to use plastic.