Most people hate the way dropped chewing gum forms yucky stains on pavements. Now a British company has come up with a way to stop it.
Traditionally, innovation has concentrated on cleaning methods, such as blasting the gum with steam. A short list of inventions along those lines can be seen here.
Revolymer, a company based in Holywell, north-east Wales, has a different solution. They modify chewing gum itself by adding an amphiphilic graft copolymer. "Amphiphilic" means molecules involving a polar, water-soluble group attached to a nonpolar, water-insoluble hydrocarbon chain. It means that water disperses the gum from pavements, and washing up liquid removes it from carpets or clothes.
The new polymer is called Rev7®. Gum is hydrophobic (water hating) and the addition makes it hydrophilic, water loving. More details can be seen on the company website as well as in their initial patent application, Polymeric materials having reduced tack. I like the mention of "tack", and apparently gum stains are called "cud" in the industry. The chemical structure for the polymer is given below.
The company is a spin-off from the University of Bristol. They estimate that councils spend £150 million in Britain alone to remove the unsightly mess. £10 million was spent in four years of development, with backing from venture capital and private equity money.
The American authorities have approved its use, and approval is going through its final stages in Europe. The company's options are to licence the product to a major manufacturer, or to sell their own brand. Revolymer hopes to be selling the product in 2011 in Europe.