What chemical could dissolve plastic aside from acetone? Preferably, low-cost and environmentally friendly. Any suggestions would be helpful.

I'm targeting for thin plastic (low-density polyethylene). Environmentally friendly for me is that it follows the EPA standards from the USA. I'm targeting for around 150 USD. I'm okay with solvents that make the plastic swell, but a chemical that could dissolve it is preferable.

  • 1
    $\begingroup$ 150 USD for... what? Per liter, per tonne, per day? Can you say anything at all about what you're trying to do? $\endgroup$
    – jeffB
    Jul 3, 2019 at 1:50

1 Answer 1

  • The safest solvent might be supercritical carbon dioxide, $\ce{CO2}$. Supercritical carbon dioxide is also used in "green" dry-cleaning. Use for dissolving polymers requires a pressure vessel for ~5 to 50 MPa, able to work at ~40 to 100°C. There are (paywalled) articles at ACS and NCBI, if you want to investigate further.

  • According to Agilent, 1,2,4-Trichlorobenzene (TCB) is effective.

  • Some other solvents mentioned at Research Gate include toluene and xylene.

N.B. The aromatic solvents all are toxic, some quite so, and are volatile and flammable. All of them require temperatures near the melting point of polyethylene, ~100°C, to dissolve much of the polymer, so a reflux or pressurized system is required.

Supercritical $\ce{CO2}$, while not very toxic, can cause asphyxiation above ~5%, and the container is, effectively, a bomb containing a warm or hot pressurized fluid.

  • $\begingroup$ Thanks!! I'll look into that chemical!! $\endgroup$ Jul 3, 2019 at 10:29

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