Read the full story in Chemical and Engineering News.
Polyurethane shows up in all sorts of consumer products: seat cushions in furniture and vehicles, car bumpers, shock-absorbing sneaker soles, and more. The global market for polyurethane was over $19 billion last year, and when those products wear out they generate vast quantities of waste—more than 1 million metric tons annually in the US alone. But the very thing that gives polyurethane its strength and durability—crosslinked polymer chains—makes it tough to reprocess into new products of comparable value. Instead of dumping it into landfills or “downcycling” it to make carpet padding, a group of researchers has shown they can break those crosslinks and reform the material to use in new products of similar commercial value to the original (ACS Cent. Sci., 2020, DOI: 10.1021/acscentsci.0c00083).