Would You Brush Your Teeth With Broken Glass?
That's what scientists who've created a toothpaste ingredient out of glass want to know.
University of Queensland PhD candidate Rhys Pirie has figured out how to transform broken glass into a useful compound that can be used in toothpaste.
He and his team discovered that a chemical used in common household drain cleaner -- or 'draino' -- can dissolve glass and separate an amount of silicon dioxide.
Silicon dioxide -- also known as silica -- can also be found naturally in sand or quartz and is used in things like tyres, detergents, adhesives and cement.
When it comes to toothpaste, liquid or hydrated silicate -- which is the liquid form of silica -- acts as the abrasive gel that helps scrub teeth clean.
Pirie's research is not only ground-breaking but it's environmentally-friendly, too. Tens of millions of tonnes of broken glass aren't actually recycled simply because the glass is too small to be sorted and processed. It's then either discarded as waste, stored or sent to landfill.
Now, thanks to Pirie's research these mountains of unrecycled glass can be put to good use -- making mountains of silica.
"Glass is about 70 to 75 percent silica," Pirie said. "You need about 1.3kg of glass to make 1kg of silica."
"Most of that goes into saleable products so we have very little waste at the end of it," he said.
Unlike traditional methods of producing liquid silicate, Pirie's glass-to-silica technique requires relatively little energy, making it less expensive as well.
"We estimate the process is more than 50 percent cheaper than conventional ways of producing silicate," Pirie said.
"You can’t ever make glass out of it again, but it’s a way to turn a cost negative waste into an absolute resource," Pirie's colleague Professor Damien Batstone said.
You might find that broken glass is an ingredient in your toothpaste sooner rather than later -- if the team gets funding to take their tech to the open market.
Feature image: Getty.