The patent's assignee for patent application serial number 813245 is
News editors obtained the following quote from the background information supplied by the inventors: "Utilization of polymeric materials in daily life continues to increase steadily and is expected to reach 365 million tons in 2015 at an annual growth rate of 8.1%. The packaging industry is responsible for the largest share of polymer consumption, but the polymers used in this fashion are commonly discarded after a single use, which promotes growing landfill concerns. Environmental considerations coupled with the limited supply and increasing price of oil, necessitate polymer recycling on a global basis.
"Polyethylene terephthalate (PET) is one of the most important thermoplastics in ubiquitous packaging use today due to its mechanical properties, clarity, and solvent resistance. Efficient and high-throughput chemical recycling processes have been developed that remove only the outer layer of PET flakes without degrading the entire polymer. See, for example, U.S. Pat. Nos. 5,958,987; 6,197,838; 7,070,624; 6,147,129; 7,097,044; 7,098,299; and 7,338,981, all of which are incorporated herein by reference. These multi-step processes remove impurities from waste PET, resulting in food-grade recycled PET (rPET).
"While the above describes improvement in the art, further improvement may be made. For instance, polymer recycling is routinely accompanied by nontrivial deterioration of physical properties, which is why recycled polymers are frequently used as only fillers or other low-value materials. Accordingly, it would add value to rPET by endowing it with properties of technological interest, for instance via surface modification. Such materials could be used, e.g., in forming rPET composites that exhibit desirable characteristics.
"For example, previous studies have shown that dispersing nanometer-sized clay materials at relatively low loading levels in polymer matrices can form polymer composites exhibiting flame retardancy as well as desirable mechanical and barrier properties without adversely affecting polymer transparency. To maximize this benefit, the individual layers of clay stacks should be exfoliated and uniformly dispersed throughout the polymer matrix. Unfortunately, the large size and inherently hydrophobic nature of polymer molecules such as polyester impedes the dispersion of clay. Earlier commercial efforts, such as pioneering work by
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