Empa develops recyclable plastic for industry


St.Gallen – Researchers at the Swiss Federal Laboratories for Materials Testing and Research (Empa) in St.Gallen have developed an epoxy resin that can be recycled and repaired. In this way, they are creating a new plastic that can be used, for example, in the construction of airplanes and trains or in coatings for parquet flooring.

Researchers at the Swiss Federal Laboratories for Materials Testing and Research(Empa) have developed a new type of plastic. Their epoxy resin can be both repaired and recycled. According to a media release, this is a first. Until now, recycling was not possible with epoxy resins. In this type of plastic, the polymer chains are tightly interlinked, which makes melting impossible. “Once they have had their day, they are incinerated or disposed of in landfills,” explains Wenyu Wu Klingler of Empa’s Advanced Fibers Laboratory in St.Gallen.

However, epoxy resins have excellent mechanical and thermal properties, Empa writes in its statement. Accordingly, they are used in a wide range of industrial applications – for example in the manufacture of components for aircraft, cars, trains, ships and wind turbines.

Empa’s special epoxy resin is thus intended, among other things, to make the use of fiber-reinforced plastics in industry more sustainable. “The production of carbon fibers requires a lot of energy and releases an enormous amount of CO2,” explains Sabyasachi Gaan from Empa’s Advanced Fibers laboratory. If they can be returned to the material cycle after use, the ecological footprint can be improved and the price can also be reduced, Gaan said.

Fiber-reinforced plastics, such as those used in the construction of airplanes, trains, boats, cars and bicycles, are not the only application for the new plastic, however, according to Empa. It could be used, for example, to coat wooden floors – as a transparent, resistant layer that has good flame-retardant properties. ce/ssp