smoke-stack
smoke-stack

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利用石油燃料制造的塑料如今仍旧组成着我们生活不可缺少的部分,本文介绍了国外公司在塑料制造方面最新动态,也许有一天我们能用上无公害的塑料。

Scientists are already working on making plastic from human waste, algae and milk, so it shouldn’t come as a surprise that one company is working on making it from carbon dioxide. Massachusetts-based Novomer has gotten attention for nabbing investments, but its technology is finally getting close to hitting the market.

科学家们已致力于从人产生的垃圾中生产塑料,藻类以及奶类,所以当一家公司正试图利用二氧化碳生产塑料便不足为奇。位于麻省的Novomer公司正吸引着各方投资,而它的技术终于接近入市阶段。

Peter Shepard, Novomer’s executive vice president of polymers explained, explained the company’s process to me. Novomer takes a petrochemical material, adds carbon dioxide and an innovative catalyst developed by Cornell University professor Geoffrey Coates to grow a polymer. Using this process, Novomer can control the length of the molecular chain for different types of materials.

Peter Shepard,这家公司的聚合物(部门)执行副总裁,向我解释整个过程。他们往石油化学材料中,加入二氧化碳以及一种由康奈尔大学Geoffery Coates教授研制的新型催化剂来制造聚合物。利用这个过程,Novomer公司可以控制不用材料类型的分子链长度。

The CO2 comes from a number of sources. One of their best sources is actually ethanol processing, Shepard says. While power plants like the one in the photo are large sources of CO2, their carbon often has other impurities mixed in. Novomer prioritizes carbon sources based on purity and concentration of CO2.

Shepard表示,二氧化碳有许多来源,其中最佳途径实际上在于乙醇处理。虽然从照片上那样的发电厂也算是二氧化碳一大来源,但其中的碳成分混杂着许多杂志。Novomer公司更看重纯净度更高的碳来源以及集中于二氧化碳上。

[延伸阅读]菌类消化塑料垃圾

“If we take CO2, we replace half the petroleum component in the material,” Shepard says. “It’s a much lower cost than any petrochemical materials.” The challenge then becomes making materials that meet expectations for their applications. They’re exploring foams, coatings, and thermoplastics. Shepard says that materials from one resin they produce are probably six months to a year from being ready for commercialization.

“取走二氧化碳后,我们会取代材料中一般的石油成分,”Shepard说道,“这可比其他任何石油化学材料的成本低得多。”接下来的挑战就在于使材料满足他们应用的需求。他们探索各种泡沫、覆膜以及热性材料(技术)。Shepard表示公司生产的一种树脂材料需要花上六个月至一年时间的商业化过程。

Recyclability and compostability are still question marks, but Shepard says the company is working on understanding the biodegradability of its materials. Not that I’d ever suggest landfilling, but in Novomer’s case doing so would sequester some CO2.

(即使有以上这些优点)循环利用和可降解能力仍旧是问题突出点,然而Shepard则表示“公司正试图弄清这些材料的生物降解能力。我的意思并不是指填埋方面,而这对Novomer公司的具体情况来讲便意味着可以捕获隔离部分二氧化碳。”

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Treehugger criticized Novomer for not replacing all of the fossil fuel in plastic and questioned whether it was a step in the right direction. However, after spending time with bioplastic industry reps recently at the Biopolymers Symposium in Denver, I’ve come to realize that the challenges to making 100 percent renewable, compostable plastic are enormous.

Treehugger网站(*)却批评Novomer公司没在生产塑料的过程中完全替换化石燃料,并质疑这种做法的正确性。然而在了解过于丹佛召开的生物高聚物论坛上名声大噪的生物塑料工业后,我意识到制造出一种百分之百可再生、可降解的塑料的任务非常艰巨。

[译者注:Treehugger,意为拥抱树的人,是一家倡导保护环境,可持续发展的网站。可以猛击这里访问。]

Nobody wants sustainable plastic more than the people who gathered in Denver. Some of them even openly referred to the petroleum-based part of the industry as “the dark side.” I’m sure Novomer would love to replace all the petroleum, but transforming an industry so large that several million tons constitutes a drop in the bucket is no simple proposition.

没有哪些人会比聚集在丹佛的这些人更迫切地需要一种可持续的塑料了。其中一些人甚至公开宣称那些基于石油的产业为“邪恶的行径”。我能肯定Novomer公司也愿意看到其中的石油成分能完全替代,然而如此轻而易举地颠覆一个行业则不切实际。

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For the industry to adopt petroleum alternatives, the material needs to work on existing machinery, stand up to extensive performance testing, be affordable, and have an end-of-life strategy that jives with large-scale recycling and composting processes.

为了让工业采用石油替代品,这种材料要能用于现有的机械设备,经受得住各种性能测试,价格合理并且具备在大范围的循环利用与降解过程中表现出色的终生战略。

“You’re used to a trash bag that holds your trash and doesn’t fall apart,” Shepard says. “If the plastic we make doesn’t meet those performance standards, nobody is going to buy it.”

“人们已习惯于用垃圾袋来装垃圾不会裂开损坏,”Shepard说,“如果我们生产的塑料无法达到性能标准,没人会买账。”

After hearing executives from DuPont and BASF talk about making changes to mascara bottles and shrink wrap, even the optimist in me knows we’re years away from pervasive eco-plastic. Until then, I’m comfortable giving props to companies like Novomer. At least they’re giving this a go.

在获悉DuPont()与BASF()打算改变睫毛膏瓶子与缩减包装材料后,甚至连我这样的乐观主义者都能理解,我们离广泛采用无害塑料还有很长的路要走。在那之前,我很乐意来支持像Novomer这样的公司,至少他们在此方面作出了不懈努力。

[译者注:DuPont就是赫赫有名的美国杜邦公司,主要致力于各种科技研发与应用,也在材料领域有所建树。BASF是德国科技公司,在国内叫巴斯夫,也是一家在化学、材料、能源等多方面发展的公司。]

Photo: Smoke stacks in California. Novomer is working to transform CO2 into plastic, reducing the reliance on petroleum. Credit: Devra.

照片中是 加利福尼亚的排放烟囱。Novomer公司正致力于将二氧化碳转化进塑料,减少对石油材料的依赖。撰者:Devra