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Los Alamos National Laboratory is part of a consortium developing a technology to rapidly break down discarded plastic at the molecular level into components that can be used to create other materials, such as nylon. The year-old research and development effort has been dubbed BOTTLE. The program was launched in November. Early research has led to identifying enzymes that can biodegrade plastic noticeably within several days, versus the several hundred years it normally would take for the material to decompose. Now the teams want to accelerate the decomposition, because breaking down the plastic in days is not nearly fast enough, lab scientist Taraka Dale said. “So what we’re shooting for is really observable changes and degradation in a matter of, ideally, hours,” said Dale, who leads the lab’s BOTTLE program. “So that you can, in theory, put this in an industrial process eventually.” The process would be fairly straightforward for users, she said. A vendor would grind up plastic trash and load it with the enzymes into a tank partially filled with water. The enzymes would break down and dissolve the plastic into the liquid. They would then transform the molecules into polymers for higher-grade products, such as carpets and clothing. Dale likened it to dismantling a brick house, and instead of simply reusing the bricks, you turn them into boards for a different purpose. The company could sell the raw material to a manufacturer, Dale said. This conversion of throwaway items and scraps into higher-quality goods, such as fabrics, would be “upcycling,” she said.

Eyes on China

This is a roundup of global macroeconomic news last night and what is expected today. Stock futures slid on Thursday evening after several high-profile earnings misses cast doubt on the recent market rally. Futures for the S&P 500 fell 0.6%, while Nasdaq 100 futures lost 1.4%. Dow Jones Industrial Average futures slumped 62 points, or 0.2%. The move in futures threatened to erase some large gains for the market on Thursday. The Nasdaq Composite rose 3.25% for its best day since November and is on track for a fifth-straight winning week. The S&P 500 gained 1.47%. The Dow, however, finished Thursday slightly lower, weighed down by health-care stocks, but is still positive for the week. Oil prices settled lower as U.S. industrial-linked factory orders dipped, while the dollar strengthened, making crude more expensive for non-American buyers. Brent crude futures settled at $81.98 a barrel, shedding 86 cents, or 1.04%. West Texas Intermediate crude (WTI) settled at $75.77 a barrel, down 64 cents, or 0.84%. While new orders for U.S. manufactured goods rose broadly in December, orders for industrial equipment and other machinery fell, according to the latest Commerce Department data. A rebound in the dollar index , which hit a nine-month low earlier in the session on softer U.S. Federal Reserve rate hike bets, also weighed on oil prices, according to Jim Ritterbusch of Ritterbusch and Associates. A stronger greenback makes dollar-priced oil more expensive for holders of other currencies. Gold prices slipped nearly 2% as the dollar rebounded and some investors locked in profits after bullion scaled a nine-month peak on dovish remarks from Federal Reserve Chair Jerome Powell. Spot gold dipped 1.91% to $1,9153.09 per ounce, having hit its highest since April 2022 earlier in the session. U.S. gold futures settled down 0.77% at $1,927.8. European markets closed higher Thursday as investors digested interest rate hikes by European central banks and the latest move by the U.S. Federal Reserve. The pan-European Stoxx 600 index closed 1.4% higher, with sectors mostly positive. Technology stocks rocketed 4.6%, while oil and gas led losses, dropping 1.5%.

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