BRUSSELS : A team of researchers from Germany-based Ludwig Maximilian University (LMU) has unveiled a new technique to efficiently sort plastic in recycling plants. The new process enhances plastic separation process through automated polymer identification techniques. The research was led by Professor Heinz Langhals of LMU’s Department of Chemistry.
According to the press release published in the LMU website, the research is considered as a significant step towards simplifying the plastic sorting techniques employed at recycling facilities. The automated recognition of polymer constituents will improve the efficiency of plastic recycling and promote plastic re-use, it added.
The plastic is exposed to a brief flash of light. The fluorescent light emitted by plastic is used to identify the polymer types. The researchers identified that the lifetime of fluorescent emissions vary depending on the type of polymers, hence enabling characterization of polymer types. This was concluded from a detailed analysis of the decay curve of the light emission by using photoelectric sensors.
The new technique is expected to boost the identification and sorting of plastics to up to 1.5 tonnes of plastic per hour. Furthermore, Professor Heinz Langhals indicated that the new technique is ready to be applied on an industrial scale.