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VOA慢速英语:科学家创造出可完全再循环利用的新型塑料

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Scientists Create New Plastic that Could Be Fully Recyclable

科学家创造出可完全再循环利用的新型塑料

Plastic remains one of the most-used materials for making many of the things we use in our everyday lives.

塑料一直是用于制造我们很多日用品被使用最多材料之一。

Things made of plastic can be very strong and last a long time. They also do well in extreme heat and cold. Plastic is also much lighter than metal and can easily be formed into different shapes. This makes the material ideal for countless uses across many different industries.

塑料制成的物品很坚韧而且能使用很长一段时间。它们在极热和极冷的环境中也可以很好地使用。塑料比金属轻很多而且能很容易被塑造成不同的形状。这使得塑料成为在很多生产制造中有着超多用途的理想材料。

But the widespread use of plastics across the world is causing major problems for the environment. Plastic material is flooding landfills and causing severe damage in the world's oceans.

但是塑料在全世界的广泛使用正在对环境造成了严重的问题。 塑料材料充满了堆填区并对世界上的海洋造成了严重损害。

Plastics can take hundreds of years to break down on their own. Very few kinds are highly recyclable. This is because of the way plastics are formed.

塑料独自降解需要上百年的时间。能被高度循环利用的塑料种类几乎没有。原因在于塑料形成结构。

It has been estimated that even the most reusable kinds of plastic can only be recycled at a rate of 20 to 30 percent. Even when recycling is possible, the process is costly, can use a lot of energy and, in many cases, produces poor-quality materials.

据估计即使能被最多重复使用的塑料,仅仅有20%到30%能被再循环利用。即使可以循环利用,整个过程耗资巨大,并且需要消耗很多能量,即使这样,在很多情况下也只能生产出质量低廉的材料。

But a team of researchers working at the U.S. Department of Energy says it has created a kind of plastic that could lead to products that are 100 percent recyclable.

但是美国能源部(DOE)一个团队的研究人员说称他们已经创造出一种能够制作成可被百分百循环利用产品的塑料。

The team works at the Department of Energy's Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory in California. It recently reported the discovery in a study in the journal Nature Chemistry.

该团队在美国能源部(DOE)劳伦斯伯克利国家实验室工作,该实验室位于加利福尼亚州。它近期在《自然化学》这本期刊上发表了报告,阐述了在研究中的这一发现。

The researchers say the new material is a plastic polymer called polydiketoenamine, or PDK. The team reports that the material can be broken down in parts at the molecular level.

研究人员说这种新材料是一种塑料聚合物,被称作polydiketoenamine或者PDK。该团队报告上称该材料在分子级别能被部分降解。

It can then be built up again to form plastics of different shapes, textures, colors and more. The researchers say this process can be repeated over and over again -- without the plastic material losing any performance or quality.

被降解的材料接着被再加工,形成不同形状、不同质地、不同颜色或者更多种类的塑料。研究人员说,这个过程能被一遍遍重复,并保证不会降低塑料材料的质量和功能。

“Most plastics were never made to be recycled,” lead researcher Peter Christensen said in a statement. Christensen works at Berkeley Lab's Molecular Foundry center. “But we have discovered a new way to assemble plastics that takes recycling into consideration from a molecular perspective.”

“大多数塑料不能被循环利用,”研究组长彼得·克里斯滕森在一次发言中说。克里斯滕森在美国伯克利实验室的分子铸造中心工作。“但是我们已经发现了一种重组塑料结构的新方法,新型塑料从分子角度,能考虑可以将塑料再循环利用”。

The team explained that all plastics – from water bottles to automobile parts – are made up of polymers with a molecular structure. These polymers are made up of carbon-containing compounds known as monomers.

该团队解释说所有的塑料产品(从水瓶到汽车零部件)都是由具有分子结构的高聚物构成的。这些高聚物由含碳复合物也就是单体构成。

Many plastics have different chemicals added to them to make them more useful and powerful. The problem is that these chemicals attach to the monomers, which remain in the plastics even after the material gets processed at a recycling plant.

很多塑料被添加了不同的化学制品来增加塑料用途并增强它的强韧性。 问题是这些化学制品附着在了单体上,并且附着力很强,在塑料进入回收利用设备被处理时仍然无法去除。

The research team reported that, with the newly discovered PDK material, the monomers could be recovered and separated from any chemical additives. This part of the process would involve putting the plastic material into “a highly acidic solution.”

研究团队报告上称,新发现的PDK材料的单体能被回收并且可与任何化学添加剂重新分离。这道加工程序可能需要将塑料材料放进“酸性极强的溶液中”。

Brett Helms is a scientist at Berkeley Lab's Molecular Foundry who worked on the study. He said the team is interested in the chemistry that can redirect plastic lifecycles from "linear to circular.” This could be especially important for materials that currently have very few recycling possibilities, he added.

布雷特·赫尔姆斯美国伯克利实验室的分子铸造中心的一名科学家,他也参与了此次研究。 他说该团队对于那些能将塑料的生命周期“由直线型转变成圆形”的化学物质很感兴趣。这对于那些近期很难循环利用的材料来说可能尤其重要。

Next, the researchers say they plan to develop PDK plastics “with a wide range of thermal and mechanical properties.” These plastics could be used for many kinds of cloth, as well as things such as 3D printed materials and foams. In addition, the team is looking to include plant-based materials in the process.

接下来,研究人员说他们计划研发制造“具有广泛热学和机械性能”的PDK 塑料。这些塑料能被用来制作多种类型的织物以及3D打印材料和泡沫等物品。除此之外,在此进程中该团队也在留意以植物为原料制成的材料等。

Helms said the world is currently “at a critical point,”  at which new recycling plants and processes need to be developed and modernized to deal with long-lasting plastic waste. New recycling centers could be designed to recycle or upcycle PDK and related plastics.

赫尔姆斯说现今全世界处于一个新型循环利用设备和加工工序急需被改进和现代化的“很关键的时刻”,从而应对处理长期留存的塑料废品。新的回收利用中心能被设计成可循环利用或者升级改造PDK和相关的塑料。

“Then we would be able to more effectively divert plastic from landfills and the oceans,” Helms said. “This is an exciting time to start thinking about how to design both materials and recycling facilities to enable circular plastics,” he added.

“接着我们能够更加有效地将塑料从堆填区和海洋中转移,”赫尔姆斯说,“这是一个令人非常激动的时刻,我们开始思考如何设计材料和回收利用设备来使塑料能够被循环利用,”他补充道。

I'm Bryan Lynn.

布赖恩·林恩为您报道。

Scientists Create New Plastic that Could Be Fully Recyclable

Plastic remains one of the most-used materials for making many of the things we use in our everyday lives.

Things made of plastic can be very strong and last a long time. They also do well in extreme heat and cold. Plastic is also much lighter than metal and can easily be formed into different shapes. This makes the material ideal for countless uses across many different industries.

But the widespread use of plastics across the world is causing major problems for the environment. Plastic material is flooding landfills and causing severe damage in the world's oceans.

Plastics can take hundreds of years to break down on their own. Very few kinds are highly recyclable. This is because of the way plastics are formed.

It has been estimated that even the most reusable kinds of plastic can only be recycled at a rate of 20 to 30 percent. Even when recycling is possible, the process is costly, can use a lot of energy and, in many cases, produces poor-quality materials.

But a team of researchers working at the U.S. Department of Energy says it has created a kind of plastic that could lead to products that are 100 percent recyclable.

The team works at the Department of Energy's Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory in California. It recently reported the discovery in a study in the journal Nature Chemistry.

The researchers say the new material is a plastic polymer called polydiketoenamine, or PDK. The team reports that the material can be broken down in parts at the molecular level.

It can then be built up again to form plastics of different shapes, textures, colors and more. The researchers say this process can be repeated over and over again -- without the plastic material losing any performance or quality.

“Most plastics were never made to be recycled,” lead researcher Peter Christensen said in a statement. Christensen works at Berkeley Lab's Molecular Foundry center. “But we have discovered a new way to assemble plastics that takes recycling into consideration from a molecular perspective.”

The team explained that all plastics – from water bottles to automobile parts – are made up of polymers with a molecular structure. These polymers are made up of carbon-containing compounds known as monomers.

Many plastics have different chemicals added to them to make them more useful and powerful. The problem is that these chemicals attach to the monomers, which remain in the plastics even after the material gets processed at a recycling plant.

The research team reported that, with the newly discovered PDK material, the monomers could be recovered and separated from any chemical additives. This part of the process would involve putting the plastic material into “a highly acidic solution.”

Brett Helms is a scientist at Berkeley Lab's Molecular Foundry who worked on the study. He said the team is interested in the chemistry that can redirect plastic lifecycles from "linear to circular.” This could be especially important for materials that currently have very few recycling possibilities, he added.

Next, the researchers say they plan to develop PDK plastics “with a wide range of thermal and mechanical properties.” These plastics could be used for many kinds of cloth, as well as things such as 3D printed materials and foams. In addition, the team is looking to include plant-based materials in the process.

Helms said the world is currently “at a critical point,”  at which new recycling plants and processes need to be developed and modernized to deal with long-lasting plastic waste. New recycling centers could be designed to recycle or upcycle PDK and related plastics.

“Then we would be able to more effectively divert plastic from landfills and the oceans,” Helms said. “This is an exciting time to start thinking about how to design both materials and recycling facilities to enable circular plastics,” he added.

I'm Bryan Lynn.

________________________________________________________________

Words in This Story

ideal —adj. perfect, of the best choice possible

polymer — n. a natural or artificial substance made from many smaller molecules

texture — n. the way something feels then you touch it

assemble —v. to build or put together

perspective — n. way of thinking about or looking at something

thermal —adj. relating to heat

foam —n. lightweight material produced from a chemical process

divert — v. send something somewhere different from where it was expected to go

enable — v. make something possible


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