One of the main challenges that stand in front of our society is related to the economic structure and, in particular, these challenges embrace how to evolve the economy architecture from a linear system toward circular networks of feedstock and products. In this vision, a strong interconnection between the recycling of end-of-life products and production processes has to be guaranteed to decrease our energy and natural resources debt.
In this frame, the BIZENTE project, which is strongly oriented to a bio-recycling approach for thermoset materials, is working on the development of an enzymatic degradation process addressing epoxy, vinyl ester and polyester resins. These are materials characterized by recycling and degradation procedures that are still too expensive from an energetic and economic point of view.
In this area, one of the main obstacles to tackle is that this investigation field is majorly unexplored, and the information available in the literature are limited for polyester-based materials. Furthermore, the available information dramatically decreases in the case of epoxy-based resins. Therefore, new approaches were designed and tested within BIZENTE.
So, how to deal with the biodegradation of thermoset materials? To operate in this direction, the investigation scheme was mainly composed of three steps, which were represented by: the selection of enzyme and substrate, the creation of a reaction mixture that could operate under optimal conditions for a longer period, and the selection of a sensible analytic procedure that could detect by-products coming from enzymatic treatments. Thus, following this scheme, BIZENTE members have for the first time investigated the enzymatic degradation of selected reference resins, such as DION®IMPACT9102, Araldite®LY1568, and R930A.
From the analysis of reaction products, partners detected promising evidences about the releasing of by-products signals coming from treated polyester and vinyl ester-based resins after enzymatic treatment. Even if in a premature phase, such results suggest that the enzyme application could represent an alternative path in the thermoset degradation field.
For this reason, starting from these observations, BIZENTE will move toward optimizing reaction tested conditions, testing new resin-enzymes mixture, and detecting realized by-products.
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