Plastic bottles, empty cans, old toys, torn T-shirts and worn-out mobile phones – day for day, mankind produces millions of tons of waste. How can we prevent our planet from stifling in the garbage?
To this day, recycling is the method of choice. But it is expensive: "So far, most man-made substances are chemically very stable: to decompose them back into their components, one has to spend a lot of energy," explains Job Boekhoven, professor of Supramolecular Chemistry at the TUM. Inspired by biological processes the chemist is pursuing another path.
"Nature does not produce garbage dumps. Instead, biological cells are constantly synthesizing new molecules from recycled ones. Some of these molecules assemble into larger structures, so-called supramolecular assemblies that form the structural components of the cell. This dynamic ensemble inspired us to develop materials that dispose of themselves when they are no longer needed. "