Clay: it’s good for more than just pottery. A report in the American Chemical Society’s Macromolecules journal claims that natural clay could be used to produce a cheap, flame-retardant substance that might one day replace the main compound used in plastic nanocomposites. Eco-friendly superplastics could, in other words, soon be on their way.
Researchers report that even small amounts of quaternary amine-treated organoclay can make plastic strong, resistant to ultraviolet light and chemical damage, and flame-retardant. In the past, these organoclays have been difficult to produce due to health and environmental hazards.
But the newly discovered organoclay contains a common flame retardant (resorcinol diphenyl phosphate) that is safer to handle, produces less dust, and can be mass-produced. The new organoclays can also be used in styrene plastic, unlike traditional quaternary amine-treated organoclay.
We’d love to see plastics disappear altogether, but in the meantime, less toxic and more sustainable materials sound good to us.