In the US, there are over 86,000 known chemicals used in commerce. While some are no longer active, many help us stay clean, treat diseases, and even make food. Others are crucial to generating energy and making equipment run.
In short, chemistry innovations help make us healthier and our lives more convenient. Technology, in turn, drives the need for even more advances in the world of chemicals.
So, how exactly do technological applications fit into chemistry? What innovative technology do chemical experts use, and are they all good?
We’ll answer all those questions in this guide, so be sure to read on!
Battling Plastic Waste
Each year, people on the planet produce 300 million tons of plastic waste. About eight million tons of that end up in oceans, while tons of others in other bodies of water. As a result, marine life chokes on them, too.
As if that’s not bad enough, some estimates say it takes decades to centuries for plastic to break down.
Now, keep in mind that tech devices use plastic, too, such as for their casing or housing. Even circuit boards, cabling, wiring, and buttons can also be plastic.
As such, scientists are looking for ways that can make it easier for plastic to break down. For example, some chemists are studying polymer degradation in environmental conditions. These include heat, light, microbes, and moisture that may help abrade plastic.
Others are looking into plastics that nature itself may be able to break down. There are even scientists who created a super enzyme to degrade plastic bottles. They found that the enzyme can speed up plastic degradation by six times.
There are also scientists delving deeper into bioplastics. These are plastic materials made from natural resources like starches and vegetable oil. Since bioplastics come from plants, researchers hope they could be easier to degrade.
Ebbing E-Waste With Eco-Friendly Chemicals
In 2019, humans generated 53.6 million metric tons of electronic waste (e-waste). E-waste is any discarded product that comes with a battery or electrical plug. It includes telecommunication devices, computers, toys, and yes, even electronic cars.
The thing is, only a tiny fraction of e-waste undergo proper recycling. Worse, it contains chemicals that can leach and pollute the air, land, and water.
Those pollutants, in turn, can cause disease and even deaths in humans and animals. Ecosystems also suffer, as the toxins from electronics kill plants, too.
For those reasons, scientists have started looking into green chemistry. Green chemistry uses chemical analytics that helps chemists assess environmentally sensitive chemicals. By ruling out or reducing the use of these substances, they can then create safer chemicals.
Green chemists also aim to design chemical products that won’t last so long in nature. Moreover, they choose substances that have lower potentials for causing accidents.
Paring Down the Use of Perilous Pesticides
Nanotechnology has helped make drinking water safer and chemotherapy drugs more effective. It also made medical implants more resistant to infections. It’s also thanks to this field that computers are now more powerful yet use less energy.
Now, chemists are also using nanotechnology to create nano-formulated pesticides. Their goal is to develop nano-agrochemicals that have fewer environmental impacts. They also aim to design chemicals that will address only the pests and not harm other forms of wildlife.
Nourishing Plants With Nano-Fertilizers
Nanotechnology has also prompted scientists to look into nano-fertilizers. They’re studying how nano-particles can boost the nutrient efficiency of fertilizing compounds. They’re also looking to turn fertilizers into particles that plants can absorb faster.
One example is the nanoscale fertilizer. It uses nano-particles that contain plant nutrients.
Another is nanoscale additive. It’s a mix of common fertilizers with nanoscale additives.
Finally, we have the nanomaterial-coated fertilizers. These use nanotech to store the fertilizers in nano-capsules. The aim is to make the coating release nutrients on a gradual basis.
Research on nano-fertilizers is still in its infancy, though. That’s why they’re not yet widely available. Hopefully, though, it won’t be long before scientists create products farmers can use.
New Tech That Creates Polymers Can Combat Infections
In 2021, a group of scientists revealed that they created cells able to make polymers. What’s more, they found that their artificial cells can resist viral infections.
Such infections, in turn, pose problems in drug making. That’s because pathogens can infect drugs during manufacturing.
As such, the scientists believe their new tech can make some drugs more reliable but still cost less. An example is the protein drug insulin, the cost of which has gone through the roof over the years. One brand even had a 13-fold price increase from 1996 to 2019.
The new tech may help by cutting the waste caused by infected drug materials. With less waste, drug makers may then lower the cost of their products. Moreover, the new cell tech may also help reduce the risks of drug contamination.
Helping Make Solar Technology Even Better
Scientists are studying chemicals to refine silicon in solar photovoltaic (PV) panels. What’s more, they’re researching organic materials that can go into making PV panels.
There’s also the growing field of solar fuel research. The end goal is to design technologies that can harness the sun’s energy to produce fuels. From there, scientists aim to turn the fuels into energy sources for cars and electricity.
Chemical experts are also looking for even more ways to boost solar and wind batteries. These are batteries used to store energy harnessed from the sun and the wind. With these, you can use the stored power later, such as during an outage.
Tech and Chemistry Innovations for a Healthier Planet
As you can see, the good and the bad sides of tech are some of the key drivers of chemistry innovations. Thankfully, both green tech and green chemistry now exist. With these two, we may be able to help the planet heal and recover.
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