What is the biodegradable polymer which is produced from glycine and aminocaproic acid? (17 applications of nylon) 

In this article, Nylon 2-Nylon 6 will be explained in detail which is a product of glycine and aminocaproic acid. Other topics covered would be: 

  • What is nylon 2-Nylon 6?
  • What is Nylon?
  • Why should nylon be biodegradable?
  • What is biodegradability?
  • How is waste classified based on biodegradability?
  • What are examples of biodegradable and non-biodegradable waste?
  • What is the effect of biodegradable waste on the environment 
  • Conclusion
  • FAQs

What is the biodegradable polymer which is produced from glycine and aminocaproic acid?

The biodegradable polymer which is produced from glycine and aminocaproic acid is called Nylon 2-Nylon 6. It is a copolymer that is produced from the co-polymerisation of glycine and aminocaproic acid. 

Nylon 2-Nylon 6 is most commonly used in the synthesis of artificial fibres and also in strings of musical instruments. Toothbrushes may also contain nylon 2-nylon 6. 

What is Nylon 2-Nylon 6

Nylon 2-Nylon 6 is a copolymer that is produced from the co-polymerisation of glycine and aminocaproic acid. Nylon 2-Nylon 6 is regarded as exceptionality to conventional nylon because it is biodegradable. 

This means that Nylon 2-Nylon 6 will cause fewer problems in comparison to other synthetic polymers which are not biodegradable and may persist for hundreds of years. 

Nylon is associated with a number of commercial applications such as being used as fibres, in medical implants, in sports gear, 3d printing, and toothbrushes. 

Nylon 2-Nylon 6 is specially used to make toothbrushes, strings of musical instruments, and also in the formation of synthetic polymers. 

What is nylon?

Nylon is a commonly used synthetic polymer that is made in the labs by the use of various chemicals. It may be clear that nylon is a man-made product and is not derived from nature. 

Like other synthetic polymers, nylon also exhibits unique properties that give it an edge in various applications and industries. Nylon may have the following properties: 

  • Good mechanical strength 
  • Electrical insulation 
  • Mechanical damping 
  • Fatigue resistance 
  • Wear-protection 
  • Resistance to radiation 

Owing to these properties, it is used in a number of applications. These include: 

  • Switchgear
  • Tents
  • Fishing line
  • Gloves
  • Wheels
  • Wear pads
  • Toothbrushes
  • Medical implants
  • Sports equipment 
  • Machine guards
  • Wear strips and chain guards
  • 3d printing
  • Use as fibres
  • Plumbing fitting
  • Construction

However, since nylon is made in the lab with the involvement of multiple chemicals, it is considered harmful to both humans and the environment. These negative impacts may include:

  • Global warming
  • Deforestation 
  • Soil erosion 
  • Loss of life
  • Destruction of habitats 
  • Infiltration into food chains 
  • Soil and water toxicity 
  • Pollution 
  • The rise in sea levels 
  • Unprecedented weather patterns 
  • Disruption of aquatic ecosystems

Some of the negative effects of nylon on health may be: 

  • Skin irritation
  • Eye diseases 
  • Cancers
  • Neurotoxicity 
  • Digestion problems 
  • Necrosis 
  • Psychological issues

Why should Nylon be biodegradable?

You may wonder what is the importance and urgency behind the biodegradability of Nylon 2-Nylon 6. This question can be answered through many frames. Such as the issue of waste generation. 

The current waste generation stands at roughly around 2 billion tons. This means that every year, more than 2 billion tons of waste is added to the environment. 

These figures may also increase in the nearing time. It is estimated that the figure of 2 billion tons may rise up to more than 3 billion tons by as early as 2050. 

This translates to an average person being responsible for the generation of more than five kilograms of waste per day. The figures speak for themselves. 

Already, more than 40% of waste generated is not disposed of properly. On top of that, if the produced waste is not biodegradable, it will create further problems for the waste management authorities. 

Therefore, there is an increased need for materials and products to be biodegradable so that the impact and the strain caused on the environment may be reduced in the best possible ways. 

What is biodegradability?

Biodegradability can be called the Earth’s natural system to dispose of waste. It is a process of conversion of complex waste into simpler substances so that those substances may become a part of nature again.

It can be said that biodegradability is nature’s way of ensuring that waste does not gather and accumulate but rather gets back into the system.

The reason behind this is that mother nature is aware that if there is a waste generation and accumulation, then there will be a lot of negative impacts on the environment and life, in general. 

You may wonder what are the microbes that cause the process of biodegradation. Biodegradation is caused by microbes such as bacteria, fungi, viruses, algae, protozoa, and even yeast.

These microbes ensure that the waste produced is broken down into simpler substances so that it becomes a part of the system again. 

Have you ever seen a decaying animal by the side of a road? Or perhaps today you went to check your fridge and found out that the vegetables have started to de-colour and have a bad smell. 

If you have encountered anything like this, then congratulations. You have seen the live process of biodegradation. 

The term biodegradation is basically derived from two words ‘bio’ and ‘degradation’. Bio means life, whereas degradation refers to the process of the breakdown so that simpler materials may be produced. 

However, biodegradation has some limitations too. It is seen that not every product is biodegradable. Some products are biodegradable whereas some products can not be broken down by the action of microbes. 

How is waste classified based on biodegradability?

Based on biodegradability, waste can be classified into two classes. One is the type of waste which can be degraded by the action of microbes. This waste is termed biodegradable waste. 

The second is the type of waste which can not be degraded by the action of microbes. This type of waste is termed non-biodegradable waste.

Regarding biodegradability, the general rule of thumb is that natural materials are prone to the process of biodegradability. Microbes have no difficulty in degrading natural materials such as fruits, vegetables, animal waste, and manure. 

While non-natural materials like synthetic products are not prone to the process of biodegradation. As a result, non-natural materials may persist in the environment for hundreds of years. Typical examples can be plastics, epoxies et cetera. More examples will be covered in the next section.

What are some examples of biodegradable and non-biodegradable waste?

Biodegradable waste is that waste can be degraded by the action of microbes. This type of waste may degrade readily or may also take some months. 

As per some studies, biodegradable waste (like bio-plastics) may even take some years to degrade. Examples of biodegradable waste include: 

  • Food waste
  • Plant waste
  • Animal waste
  • Manure
  • Sewage 
  • Crop waste
  • Waste from slaughterhouse 
  • Natural fibres

Non-biodegradable waste, on the other hand, can not be degraded by the action of microbes. It is mainly because microbes cannot break the structures of this type of waste. 

It is generally perceived that materials that are synthesised in the lab from petroleum or fossil fuels are not biodegradable. 

Synthetic polymers are regarded as the most common non-biodegradable waste. Other examples may include: 

  • Electronic waste
  • Plastics 
  • Polyvinyl Chloride
  • Hospital waste 
  • Synthetic resins
  • Synthetic fibres
  • Nuclear waste
  • Hazardous waste
  • Chemical waste

What is the effect of biodegradable waste on the environment? 

While the impact of non-biodegradable waste is extensively well-established in the literature, the effects of biodegradable waste on the environment are a question of increased curiosity. 

While the world at large knows that non-biodegradable waste is really harmful to life and the environment, it is questioned that does that mean biodegradable waste is safe and more importantly, eco-friendly.

The answer is no. The production of waste itself is a big challenge for man and more waste means greater problems. If biodegradable waste is produced in excess and not disposed of properly, it will not be eco-friendly.

There can be two sources that could form the accumulation of biodegradable waste. The degradable waste can be sourced from natural materials as well as man-made materials. 

The examples of biodegradable waste from natural sources have already been given in the previous sections. Examples of biodegradable waste that are from man-made sources can be epoxy resin or biodegradable plastics. 

While the impact of biodegradable waste that source from nature is better understood (as it can degrade in some months), the case for biodegradable waste from synthetic sources is open to a lot of controversies. 

Regardless, the effects of biodegradable waste can also be harmful to the environment and life if the waste is not used and disposed of in balanced amounts and right ways. 

For example, cotton is biodegradable waste. However, if cotton is produced in really large quantities, this means that the handling of cotton waste would become difficult causing strain on the waste management authorities. 

More cotton production will also cause unsustainable stress on land used for cotton cultivation. The use of agrochemicals and other harmful fertilisers would also increase.  

Another example can be that of biodegradable drywall mud. Joint compound (drywall mud) can be degraded but this process releases harmful gases which are toxic to life and the environment. 

The sulphur in drywall mud leads to the release of hydrogen sulphide and sulphur dioxide. These gases are toxic to life and the environment causing acid rain, deforestation, lung dysfunctions, and eye irritation– to name a few. 

This example asserts that biodegradable waste can be harmful if not disposed of properly because it will still cause harm despite being biodegradable. 

Conclusion 

It is thus concluded that the biodegradable polymer which is produced from glycine and aminocaproic acid is Nylon 2-Nylon 6. It is a biodegradable polymer which will degrade by the action of microbes. 

This means that Nylon 2-Nylon 6 will cause fewer problems in comparison to other synthetic polymers which are not biodegradable and may persist for hundreds of years. 

Nylon is associated with a number of commercial applications such as being used as fibres, in medical implants, in sports gear, 3d printing, and toothbrushes. 

Nylon 2-Nylon 6 is specially used to make toothbrushes, strings of musical instruments, and also in the formation of synthetic polymers. 

Frequently Asked Questions: What is the biodegradable polymer which is produced from glycine and aminocaproic acid?

Is nylon biodegradable?

Generally, nylon is non-biodegradable. However, Nylon 2-Nylon 6 is an exception which is biodegradable. 

Why are numbers used in nylon names?

These numbers like nylon 6 or nylon 11 signify the number of carbon atoms that are available in the reactants. In short, these numbers come from the chemical properties of nylon.

References

  • Burkinshaw, S. M. (1995). Nylon. In Chemical Principles of Synthetic Fibre Dyeing (pp. 77-156). Springer, Dordrecht.
  • Holmes, D. R., Bunn, C. W., & Smith, D. J. (1955). The crystal structure of polycaproamide: Nylon 6. Journal of Polymer Science, 17(84), 159-177.
  • Shakiba, M., Rezvani Ghomi, E., Khosravi, F., Jouybar, S., Bigham, A., Zare, M., … & Ramakrishna, S. (2021). Nylon—A material introduction and overview for biomedical applications. Polymers for Advanced Technologies, 32(9), 3368-3383.
  • Gonsalves, K. E., Chen, X., & Wong, T. K. (1991). Synthesis, characterization and biodegradation test of nylon 2/6 and nylon 2/6/6. Journal of Materials Chemistry, 1(4), 643-647.
  • Arvanitoyannis, I., Nakayama, A., Kawasaki, N., & Yamamoto, N. (1994). Synthesis and properties of biodegradable copolyesteramides: Nylon 6, 6/ϵ‐caprolactone copolymers, 1. Die Angewandte Makromolekulare Chemie: Applied Macromolecular Chemistry and Physics, 222(1), 111-123.
  • Sonesson, U., Björklund, A., Carlsson, M., & Dalemo, M. (2000). Environmental and economic analysis of management systems for biodegradable waste. Resources, conservation and recycling, 28(1-2), 29-53.

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