A polyethylenetetraacetic acid (PETA) polymer is used as a coating on plastic, metal and ceramic products to keep them from cracking and sticking together.
But PETA has a tendency to degrade over time.
A new study has shown that a single dose of an inexpensive solvent, such as acetone, can remove the PETA from polyesters and other materials.
“The new results show that acetone can remove PETA with an extremely low degradation rate,” said study co-author Professor Tim Smith, from the School of Engineering at the University of Queensland in Australia.
“It’s a very interesting finding.”
The study was published in ACS Applied Materials & Interfaces.
The researchers injected acetone into polyesters to see if acetone could actually remove the polymer from the solution.
They found that acetones could dissolve the polymer at up to 40 times its original concentration in water, and at the same time it was removed from the solvent.
“We found that the acetone was not completely removed, but only partially,” said Smith.
The paper, ‘Effect of Acetone on the Formation of a Polymer-Like Surface’, by the authors of ACS Applied.
“Acetone has a long history of being used to form a surface coating on polymers, and it is still used today,” said Professor Tim Hildebrand, who was not involved in the study.
“So this is a great first step in understanding the properties of PETA and other polymers.”
PETA is an organic molecule used as an adhesion agent in the manufacture of many types of materials.
It is also used in the manufacturing of plastics.
Polyesters have been known to degrade rapidly over time, and they are often made of polymers that have been treated with other substances to prevent them from degrading.
However, there are some things that acetonated polyesters do not degrade well.
These include polyvinyl chloride (PVC), a polymer that is highly resistant to oxidation, and aldehydes.
“This is something that is not well understood,” said co-lead author Dr John Smith, a chemist from the Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry at the university.
“PVC is a very good surface coating because it can resist many forms of oxidation.
But it also has a very high boiling point, which is very critical for the degradation of polymeric materials,” he added.
The problem is that the PETAs surface is very porous, meaning that it can be penetrated by other materials without degrading.
“That’s why acetone has such a high degradation rate, but the surface can also be quite porous,” Smith said.
In this study, Smith and colleagues used acetone as the solvent to remove the polyester polymer.
The acetone solution was then evaporated to dry the PETAS surface.
The team found that a small amount of acetone reduced the polymer’s degradation by 30 per cent, with a further 10 per cent reduction in the presence of an oxygen.
“If you’re a chemist, you can think of acetones as a catalyst that helps to speed up the degradation process, and so this is one of the ways in which acetone accelerates the degradation,” said Hildebrands co-researcher Dr Christiane Huppert.
“But this is still a very small amount, so it’s not a huge difference in terms of the degradation rate.”
Professor Hildebert said that the team was also looking at ways to get more acetone in the solution to speed it up.
She added that the research would also be useful for developing new methods to make polymer-like materials that are less susceptible to degradation.
“Polymers like the ones that we see with acetone are still the standard for the plastics industry, but we’re also working on materials that can be made with plastics,” she said.
The study is published in the journal ACS Applied, and will appear in ACS Nano on 21 January 2018.