One group of scientists have been spending their time developing a brand new material to build wind turbine blades out of, however, this new material has one odd feature: you can eat it.
Researchers out of Michigan State University have reportedly created a new composite resin that can be used in the building of blades for wind turbines. The new resin is made of glass fibers, a synthetic polymer, and an organic polymer. This particular resin has a cool trait in which it can be broken back down into its component parts and recycled into new materials for the turbines. Additionally, the material can also be broken down further to be utilized in the making of other plastic products, acrylics, synthetic stone countertops, and even sports drinks and candy.
“The beauty of our resin system is that at the end of its use cycle, we can dissolve it, and that releases it from whatever matrix it’s in so that it can be used over and over again in an infinite loop,” explained John Dorgan, a professor of chemical engineering from Michigan State, in a release to the American Chemical Society. “That’s the goal of the circular economy.”
Dorgan, along with his research team, utilized these components to create new thermoplastic panels that could be utilized in the creation of wind turbines or on automobiles. The new plastic could also be broken down into other chemicals labeled monomers; after pulling out the glass fibers, the resin could then be recast into brand new panels that kept the same physical properties as the pieces from which they were built.
After the recycled resin is combined with other components, it can then create synthetic stone to be used in bother kitchen countertops and bathroom sinks; it could also be shredded down and mixed with other materials such as plastic covers for electronics or home appliances, Dorgan stated as part of a presentation given on Tuesday to the American Chemical Society.
This particular resin also has an odd trait that it can be broken down via digestion by making use of basic chemicals like an alkaline solution of water and baking soda, Dorgan claimed in the same presentation. When fully digested, the chemical reaction creates a new chemical called poly(methyl methacrylate), otherwise known as plexiglass, which is used in windows, vehicle lamps, clear barriers, and other products. The chemical can also be transformed into poly(methacrylic acid), a highly-absorbent polymer used in the creation of diapers.
A side product of the alkaline digestion method is lactic acid, which some of the groups were able to distill down into food-grade potassium lactate, an ingredient commonly found in both sports drinks and candy. “We recovered food-grade potassium lactate and used it to make gummy bear candies, which I ate,” stated Dorgan via his press release. He also claimed tha there is absolutely no difference between the chemicals from the reaction and the same ones created via any other method. “A carbon atom derived from a plant, like corn or grass, is no different from a carbon atom that came from a fossil fuel,” he stated. “It’s all part of the global carbon cycle, and we’ve shown that we can go from biomass in the field to durable plastic materials and back to foodstuffs.”
Dorgan concluded that the brand new resin type could end up solving the of properly disposing of windmills.