• Question: If you can make polyethene, does that mean we will not run out of plastic?

    Asked by 306pmrc35 to Anne, Rose, Thomas on 25 Jun 2015.
    • Photo: Thomas Farrugia

      Thomas Farrugia answered on 25 Jun 2015:

      Hoi hoi – I reckon you mean ethene, which would be the monomer for polyethene. Your reasoning is correct – if we can make our monomers and other “base” chemicals from scratch or non-fossil fuel sources then yes, we wouldn’t have to wrry about running out plastics or other chemicals.

      Researchers are tackling this from a number of directions, from getting bacteria to make these base chemicals (or even grow polymers) to mimicking the photosynthetic processes in plants (i.e using light, carbon dioxide and water to make complex organic molecules). It’s definitely very exciting and once realized could lead to quite a few changes to the way we live (or what happens behind the scenes) !