A new type of plastic developed by Chinese researchers breaks down safely in a week in the sun and outdoors.

Researchers in China have demonstrated a new type of plastic that decomposes in just a week when exposed to sunlight and oxygen. According to scientists, this is a step towards making electronics that are easier to recycle.

The new material came about by accident when study author Liang Luo of the China University of Science and Technology Huazhong was working on an improved type of chemical sensor. A materials scientist was developing a new polymer film that changed color depending on the pH level. This process was driven by the unique molecular structure of the material: chains of monomers give the film a dark red color and carry it away when these bonds are broken.

In the course of his team’s experiments, Luo found that the dark red color of the film quickly disappeared, and the material itself decomposed after several days in sunlight. Breaking these bonds is precisely the common goal of plastics processing research.

Plastic is not suitable for use in soda bottles or shopping bags as it decomposes quickly and completely decomposes under exposure to sunlight and air. At the same time, without leaving behind fragments of microplastics that destroy the environment. Where the new plastic comes in handy is in flexible electronics or smartphones – there it will be isolated from air and light for its entire life.