WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. A new device designed to quickly and easily identify plastics so they can be sorted for recycling has been named one of the year's 100 most technologically significant products and processes by R&D Magazine.
The device, developed by a group of Purdue University researchers and manufactured by SpectraCode Inc. in Purdue's Industrial Research Park, may help to save billions of pounds of plastics that now are landfilled or incinerated every year, says Edward Grant, Purdue professor of chemistry and chief executive officer of SpectraCode.
"One of the primary obstacles in recycling today is the lack of sufficient means to avoid cross contamination during collection," Grant says. "Polymers of different composition are incompatible when melted together, and a ton of mixed plastic is a ton of garbage."
Purdue co-inventors sharing the award with Grant are Dor Ben-Amotz, professor of chemistry; Kenneth Haber, manager of the chemistry department's laser facility; Yanan Jiang, research scientist; and George Laurence, a senior from West Lafayette who is majoring in chemistry. The R&D 100 Awards will be presented Sept. 24 during a special exhibit of the award-winning products at Chicago's Museum of Science and Industry.
The new device, called the RP-1 Polymer Identification System, may allow commercial and community recyclers to easily identify and sort a wide range of plastics, Grant says.
"For example, the device can be used to sort plastic components in cars, synthetic fiber resins in carpets, and a number of plastics used in the building and construction industry," he says. "It also can be used to sort plastic films, such as those found in dry cleaning bags, shrink wrap and packaging material."