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Vitamin C Plastics

November 29, 2006

Adding vitamin C could make molecule-by-molecule plastics manufacturing commercially viable.


Why some plastics should take their vitamins. I’m Bob Hirshon and this is Science Update.

A dose of vitamin C could be just what the plastics industry ordered. Scientists at Carnegie Mellon report it greatly improves a manufacturing process called atom transfer radical polymerization, or ATRP. Chemist James Spanswick says the process allows engineers to build new materials molecule by molecule.

JAMES SPANSWICK (Carnegie Mellon University):
What it would allow people to do is to think of the properties of the material that you want, and then target those properties by controlling all of the aspects of the polymerization process.

Until now, the process required a lot of copper, which created impurities that were environmentally risky and costly to remove. But Spanswick says that adding vitamin C reduces the need for copper, which could lead to a whole new class of designer materials, from self-cleaning windows to injectable sealants for healing bones. I’m Bob Hirshon, for AAAS, the science society.