A team of engineers and scientists from Northwestern University, Argonne National Laboratory, and several global industrial partner institutions will receive $2.5 million from the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) for research toward the development of new sustainable polymers, recycling methods, and environmental impact assessment tools. The collaborative initiative, known as Responsible Innovation for Highly Recyclable Plastics, or “ResIn” for short, will initially focus on polyurethanes—a popular class of polymer used in everything from construction and insulation to furniture and textiles.
“Global production for polyurethanes is about 18 million tons per year with market size in excess of $55 billion. These materials have a wide range of applications, but the reality is that their current recycling rate is zero percent,” says Linda Broadbelt, principal investigator for ResIn and Sarah Rebecca Roland Professor of chemical and biological engineering as well as associate dean for research in engineering at Northwestern.
ResIn’s research could have far-reaching implications for addressing plastic pollution. “The focal point for ResIn is polyurethanes, but the methodology that we’re test-driving could also be applied more broadly to other types of polymers,” Broadbelt says. Scientists estimate that the world produces about 300 million tons of plastic waste per year, with 80 percent ending up in landfills or the environment.
Read more about this amazing project here!