FLO Materials Creates Infinitely Recyclable Eyewear
Manufacturing consumes two percent of U.S. energy to produce 300 million metric tons of virgin plastics annually. While packaging represents a very common application, plastics are also ubiquitous in what are called durable consumer goods—things like shoes, clothing, sporting goods, electronics, and eyewear. And while the circular economy, or the practice of designing products and their materials to remain in service as long as possible, could cut plastic’s climate impact and has become a key selling point for many brands, very few consumer goods are truly circular.
Many such goods marry multiple types of plastics, which cannot be easily separated and reused. Color is another circularity hurdle: Even products made of the same plastics but of different colors can’t be recycled together.
But a recent study in Science Advances describes successes that researchers at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (Berkeley Lab) have made in testing the infinite recyclability of a new class of plastics–even if the plastic is mixed with other materials, or if it is mixed with the same plastic but of different colors.
One of the study’s co-authors, Peter Christensen, began work to commercialize this new type of plastic, called polydiketoenamine (PDK), in 2021, through FLO Materials, a startup that he co-founded with Kezi Cheng. The same year, Christensen and Cheng became Activate Fellows. They are part of our Activate Berkeley Community and are supported by Berkeley Lab’s Cyclotron Road, a Department of Energy Lab-Embedded Entrepreneurship Program.
The co-founders have recently hit a key milestone toward developing a PDK-based product for FLO’s beachhead market: eyewear.
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