Whether stuck underneath desks, littering sidewalks, or adhered to the bottom of wastebaskets, chewing gum can be a headache for facility managers. This sticky substance may often never be removed completely. However, if a UK-based company’s recent chewing gum development catches on, gum removal may become an easier chore.
Revolymer Ltd., a start up company based in Wales, UK, has developed a new chemical base for chewing gum that allows it to be removed from pavements and other surfaces with a mild soap solution or simply washing with water.
Historically chewing gum was made from Chicle which is a polyterpene and is made up of 15% rubber and 38% resin. Modern gums are made from synthetic latex to which softeners, sweeteners and flavorings are added. Synthetic rubbers are stretchy, retain their properties indefinitely under all weather conditions, are resistant to aggressive chemicals, and have strong adhesive properties. A change in the stickiness or the biodegradability of chewing gum would require a change in the chemical structure of the rubber gum base. However, the gum base also determines commercially important features of chewing gum such as flavour retention, “chewiness,” and shelf life. The challenge is to develop a non-sticky or biodegradable gum base that does not compromise commercially critical features.
Revolymer® has made a significant breakthrough in the physical properties of the gum base. Initial results on adhesion to glass showed a major reduction in adhesion compared to unmodified products. Recent developments within the laboratory indicates the Company can now almost “dial in” the stickiness required from high to very low contact adhesion.
The Revolymer® polymers are comprised of both hydrophobic (water repelling) and hydrophilic (water attracting) which will allow the polymers to either bind with a water repellent on the outside or a water attractant on the outside.
“We have managed to change the surface characteristics of the gum base which will allow a stream of water or a mild soap solution to break the adhesion between chewing gum residues and surfaces such as paving stones, furniture, hair, etc.,” said Professor Terence Cosgrove, Revolymer’s chief scientific officer.
The company has located its headquarters and R&D facilities in the Flintshire plant of Warwick International Ltd., the leading specialty chemical producer in the UK. Warwick, a subsidiary of Sequa Corp., New York, a $2 billion manufacturer of aerospace, automotive and chemical products, will have exclusive manufacturing rights to the polymer used as the gum base.
Revolymer develops new polymers from existing commodity polymers that potentially have applications in medical devices, paints and coatings, textiles and personal care products.