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Vanishing plastic could lead to a new range of toys that SELF-DESTRUCT

Our oceans hold 250 million tonnes of plastic, killing wildlife and clogging up shipping pathways.

Until recently, clearing Earth’s oceans of plastic waste seemed an impossible mission for science.

But a new ‘vanishing’ material could tackle the problem by creating plastic products, such as toys, that dissolve on demand.

Until recently, clearing Earth's oceans of plastic waste seemed an impossible mission for science. But a new 'vanishing' material could tackle the problem by creating plastic products, such as toys, that dissolve on demand (stock image)Until recently, clearing Earth's oceans of plastic waste seemed an impossible mission for science. But a new 'vanishing' material could tackle the problem by creating plastic products, such as toys, that dissolve on demand (stock image)

Until recently, clearing Earth’s oceans of plastic waste seemed an impossible mission for science. But a new ‘vanishing’ material could tackle the problem by creating plastic products, such as toys, that dissolve on demand (stock image)

The researchers created the me;ting toys using special polymers – the long, chain-linked molecules that build to make plastics.

They fused normal polymer chains with tiny, temperature-sensitive units dotted along the polymer chain.

These self-destruct units are rigged to break at room temperature when they are triggered by a particular stimulus.

This stimulus can be as simple as sunlight, or a specific chemical that the plastic will not come across in daily use.

Researchers are currently using this vanishing plastic to create a child’s toy that self-destructs.

The mechanism can be almost anything the researchers choose, from simple sunlight to specific chemicals triggers.

The team even suggest that their new material could turn toilets into the ideal waste disposal unit.

Plastics could be designed to melt when they meet a specific sewage-system bacteria, or even urine.

Professor Scott Phillips, lead-researcher on the project, admits the idea would take some getting used to.

‘It often creeps people out when I mention it,’ he told New Scientist.

While children’s toys are not the main offender when it comes to plastic waste, the researchers’ work is an important proof-of-concept.

‘It’s a nice place to start minimising the accumulation of plastic waste,’ Professor Phillips said.

The Penn State University researchers hope to one day develop a mass-produced plastic that gives off nothing but harmless gas when it dissolves.

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      Our oceans hold 250 million tonnes of plastic, killing wildlife and clogging up shipping pathways. But a new self-destructing plastic could be the first step toward answering our pertinent plastics problem (stock image)Our oceans hold 250 million tonnes of plastic, killing wildlife and clogging up shipping pathways. But a new self-destructing plastic could be the first step toward answering our pertinent plastics problem (stock image)

      Our oceans hold 250 million tonnes of plastic, killing wildlife and clogging up shipping pathways. But a new self-destructing plastic could be the first step toward answering our pertinent plastics problem (stock image)

      But the material is far from one-dimensional.

      The researchers say that their melting plastics could also be used as self-destructing glue.

      Small amounts will glue together materials such as glass, metal, and other plastics.

      They are just as effective as conventional adhesives.

      ‘What’s neat is that ours can also be reversed,’ says Professor Phillips. ‘By applying a signal, the object you’ve glued together will fall apart.’

      Their finding could pave the way for electronics which fall apart when they are no longer needed, making safe disposal easier.

      The researchers created the me;ting toys using special polymers – the long, chain-linked molecules that build to make plastics.

      They fused normal polymer chains with tiny, temperature-sensitive units dotted along the polymer chain.

      These self-destruct units are rigged to break at room temperature when they are triggered by a particular stimulus.

      This stimulus can be as simple as sunlight, or a specific chemical that the plastic will not come across in daily use.

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