Polymer Recycling

Plastic recycling is the process of recovering scrap or waste plastic and converting it into useful products. As of now, the majority of plastics are non-biodegradable; therefore recycling is a large part of global efforts to reduce plastic in the waste stream. One problematic waste stream is that of scrap rubber, originating mostly from used car tires. These are typically banned from landfills due to their high flammability, their toxicity, and their tendency to attract vermin.

Rubber presents a challenge for recycling due to the presence of covalent crosslinks in the material. There is no known chemistry that can selectively break the crosslinking sulfur bonds in rubber, and current recycling methods systematically result in rubber materials with mechanical properties that are inferior to that of virgin rubber.

The Olsen lab has developed a new recycling method for rubber tires that does not rely on crosslink cleavage. With this project, we developed a Sustainable Polymer Makerspace, which contains the quintessential equipment for polymer processing and characterization. Rather, we use a novel adhesive compound to enable blending of old and new rubber.

Highlighted Patent

US Patent Application No. 62/936985