HSINCHU, Taiwan — A new environmentally-friendly method of cost-effective nylon production looks to benefit developing nations that produce and use the material.
Nylon production generates a greenhouse gas, but combining ozone gas and ultraviolet light removes it.
A recent scientific paper proposes a new method that uses far less energy than the existing methods for producing nylon—one of the most commonly used polymers. Kuo Chu Hwang and Arunachalam Sagadevan from National Tsing Hua University in Hsinchu, Taiwan, developed a new technique that reduces dangerous chemical emissions by using bubbles of ozone gas and ultraviolet light to produce adipic acid, a closely related material to nylon.
“Our process is far greener, milder and more environmentally friendly,” Hwang told Chemistry World.
Although nylon itself does not contain any substances that are dangerous to the environment or one’s health, the manufacturing of nylon does. The process of manufacturing nylon generates harmful chemicals that are released into the atmosphere as waste since factories have no use for it.
Nylon is commonly used worldwide and universally manufactured; however, its current rate of production is accountable for five to eight percent of global emissions of nitrous oxide. This anthropogenic emission reduces the atmosphere’s ozone layer and has a greenhouse effect.
The new method produces little greenhouse gas nitrous oxide, and researchers state that the method’s low energy demand means that the new process is far more economical than traditional methods of development.
The process also requires fewer standards than traditional ways. It can produce nylon at room temperature compared to the much higher standard of temperatures needed for the conventional process.
With the much lower volume of chemicals needed to produce the same amount of nylon, developing nations could benefit from this most cost-effective approach that also reduces pollution.
“There are many fantastic technologies that have the potential to revolutionize production processes, but the patents are owned by multinational companies in the developed world,” Scott Kelly, Centre for Climate Change Mitigation Research.
Asia continues to produce most of the world’s nylon fiber in the manufacturing industry. In 2013, it accounted for two-thirds of the world’s nylon output. Nylon production is reported high in Southwest Asia and Bangladesh.
The introduction of this new process will create more jobs for people living in the developing world and provide jobs for those who need it most. However, licensing costs of the new method could have a negative effect of its global take up.
Researchers at National Tsing University have yet to figure out a cost comparison for the new method, but they report that it can be made cheaply from using oxygen in the air. The next big step in the development includes bringing in chemical engineers to design larger scale reactors for a more optimized production.
The new method has been praised Nilay Hazari, a professor at Yale University, who states that the new method can possibly result in an improved industrial adipic acid synthesis method.
– Sandy Phan