Collections

Plastics and polymers

In this collection we explore advancements in plastics and polymers research, covering topics such as polymer synthesis, characterisation techniques, material properties, biodegradable polymers, plastic waste and recycling, and the impact of microplastics and PFAS on the environment and human health.

Closeup of Barbie doll

Conserving Barbie from degradation

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Although she is a cultural icon, conserving Barbie has its challenges: as with most plastic toys and dolls, she was not made to last. Rachel Brazil investigates how conservation scientists are approaching this sticky problem

Polymer scrabble

Editing polymer backbones

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Changing the chemical makeup of a polymer backbone could revolutionise how we make, use and even recycle plastics. James Mitchell Crow reports

Wood texture

The wonderful wizards of wood

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Clever chemistry can turn humble timber into a sustainable material with many uses, Kit Chapman finds

An illustration showing a skier

Better skiing through chemistry

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While elite sports have been improved by materials science, for disabled athletes the developments can be life-changing. Aisha Al-Janabi reports

An image showing a muscle fibre anatomy

A test of strength for artificial muscles

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Scientists trying to copy natural muscles have several problems to overcome, Clare Sansom finds

An image showing a ferrofluid

The rise of ferrofluids

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Magnetic liquids are taking off, Hayley Bennett reports, but not as their inventor once imagined

Polymers

Confucius statue

Chemists and linguists unite to encode Confucian proverb using sequence-defined polymers

Interdisciplinary collaboration tests how two encoding schemas preserve the visual details of Chinese characters

Used and discarded plastic food and drink containers on some grass

Plastic chemicals review reveals thousands of compounds have little safety data

Existing scientific knowledge on hazards of plastic chemicals compiled in dossier for decision makers

Takeaway plastic container

Concerns raised over health effects of chemicals leaching from food packaging

Gene assays reveal disruption to cell receptors crucial for hormonal and metabolic control

Train derailment

US derailment highlights continuing chemical rail freight concerns

Three-train crash in Pennsylvania leaked diesel and plastic pellets into waterways

Plastic forks

Unique polymer can switch from rigid cutlery to an adhesive to malleable plastic

Process that mimics tempering of metals can even be reversed in multi-use plastic

PFAS

Firefighting foam

PFAS levels in the environment have been significantly underestimated

20 years’ worth of environmental samples reveal up to 80% exceed drinking water standards

Drinking water

US finally gets nationwide regulation of PFAS in drinking water

Long-awaited rule is significantly stricter and covers six PFAS, with a five-year phase in for water utilities

King penguins

Monitoring PFAS pollutants in king penguins

New insight into how organohalogen pollutants affect seabirds

Tap water

3M finalises PFAS settlement with US water suppliers

Court-approved scheme will see up to $12.5 billion to fund cleanup of public drinking water systems

A hand filling a sample tube with water from a domestic tap

Lateral flow PFAS sensor could enable at-home water testing

New device offers fast and cheap way to monitor PFAS in drinking water

Plastic recycling

Plastic pollution

Tackling plastic is a tangled mess…

…but cutting production has to be part of the solution

Bottled water

Nanoplastics make up around 90% of the plastic particles found in bottled water

Seven different types of plastic detected in three bottled water brands

Plastic recycling

Chemical recycling finds itself in the firing line as viability of process questioned

Analysis finds that ‘advanced recycling’ creates a toxic waste problem, but some researchers are concerned important nuance is not acknowledged

Plastic pollution

Vested interests pose threat to chemical waste and plastic pollution initiatives

Researchers warn that conflicts of interest will hinder efforts to tackle the world’s pollution crises

Nylon in fishing net

New catalytic process completely breaks down nylon-6 in minutes

US chemists report the mildest conditions to date for Nylon-6 depolymerisation, recovering 99% of the original monomers in the plastic

Microplastics

Figure

Microplastics passed on during cell division

New research sheds light on the influence of microplastics on cellular processes

Train derailment

US derailment highlights continuing chemical rail freight concerns

Three-train crash in Pennsylvania leaked diesel and plastic pellets into waterways

Bottled water

Nanoplastics make up around 90% of the plastic particles found in bottled water

Seven different types of plastic detected in three bottled water brands

Plastic production

New database maps plastic chemical exposure and human health effects

Minderoo Foundation’s Plastic Health Map tracking studies on polymers, bisphenols, PFAS and more from 1961 onwards, finds research gaps

Emily Stevenson

Sharing antimicrobial expertise with Parliament

Emily Stevenson is one of two interns working alongside Green Party peer, Baroness Natalie Bennett