SPE Industry Update
May. 2, 2012

Natural gas breakthrough seen transforming plastics industry
Honeywell International Inc. has discovered a one-step process to convert household natural gas into a plastics raw material. The implications are far-reaching. The technology in time could ease a glut of natural gas from U.S. shale drilling; lower the cost of products ranging from soda bottles to paint; and give Honeywell a steady profit stream from licensing the technique in the $150 billion plastics raw-material industry. The process would allow companies to make ethylene from methane, commonly known as natural gas.More

A high-efficiency differential injection molding system
SPE Plastics Research Online
Because of the trend for miniaturization, microelectromechanical systems and microsystems technology have been developing greatly. Polymers especially play an important role in the growth of microsystem applications: many varieties of these materials can be tailored to provide desired processing and application properties. Of all the molding methods, injection molding is a particularly attractive one for micro plastic products, as it makes production more efficient and cost-effective. More

SPE and PTI offer top training for plastics professionals
Register now for a Society of Plastics Engineers FastTrack training program has been designed to enhance injection molding, extrusion molding, blow molding and thermoforming knowledge levels regardless of plastics industry tenure. Produced by industry thought-leader Plastic Technologies Inc., the program will be held May 7-10 at the Crowne Plaza Atlanta Airport. More

Ford sees little threat from resin shortage; industry may dodge threat of plant shutdowns
The Associated Press via The Washington Post
The auto industry may have steered its way around another crisis, avoiding a second major disruption of its supply chain in a year. Recently, automakers and parts companies feared that factories could be forced to close due to a shortage of a key plastic resin. But Ford doesn't expect any factories to be stalled because of the shortage. That is largely because the company has substitutes for PA-12.More

Advancement in polymer chemistry
UC Santa Barbara via AZoM
A paper titled, "Multiblock Polymers: Panacea or Pandora's Box?", describes how a wide range of monomers can be used to create multiblock polymers that can lead to an array of materials with different properties. With the advancement of the polymer science, Scientists can now produce materials using monomers from various sources, ranging from petroleum to renewable feedstocks, like cellulose and sugar.More

Engineers develop fire-resistant, environmentally-friendly coating
Texas A&M University via PhysOrg
A thin polymer coating developed by materials engineers at Texas A&M University could keep cotton clothing and polyurethane-foam-based furniture from going up in flames. And the coating is environmentally friendly, too. The technology involves covering every microscopic fiber in a fabric with a thin composite coating of two polymers that exhibit an intumescent effect, producing a protective carbon foam coating when exposed to high temperatures.More

3-D printing laboratories: The age of DIY designer drugs begins
Institute for Emerging Ethics & Technologies
Novel techniques in 3-D printing technology simplify the production of drugs, enabling home design and synthesis of pharmaceuticals. Researchers have built what they call "reactionware," special vessels for chemical reactions which are made from a polymer gel. There are a number of implications of reactionware for research scientists and businesses, including the ability to create novel industrial products, such as detergents and pigments. Reactionware also opens the door to personalized chemical products such as medicines, which could include on-demand printing of prescriptions tailored to individual needs. 

Nanocoating designed to keep hip implants where they belong
The simplest way to describe an artificial hip would be to say that it's a ball attached to a stem. The stem is often fastened to the open end of the femur using a glass-like polymer known as bone cement, while the ball takes the place of the original hip bone's ball joint, rotating within a corresponding implant in the socket of the pelvis. Although problems can occur at that ball-and-socket interface, they can also result when the bone cement cracks, causing the stem to detach from the femur. Scientists, however, have developed a new type of nanoscale film coating, designed to keep that from happening.More

TPE is as hard as it gets
Plastics Today
A high-impact, semi-rigid grade of thermoplastic elastomer with a shore hardness of 50D is said to be one of highest-impact TPEs on the market. It is offered as a cost-effective alternative to thermoplastic olefins and thermoplastic vulcanizates. Supplied by Elastocon TPE Technologies in the form of black pellets, grade 9050BX is formulated to provide a variety of molding and end-use benefits.More

Study: No fully sustainable bio-based plastics currently exist
There are no bio-based plastics currently in commercial use or under development that are fully sustainable, according to a new study. The U.S. researchers also found that a number of environmental and occupational health and safety risks are linked to their production — but acknowledged that bio-based materials may be more sustainable than petroleum-based counterparts.More

Super-collider team discovers new subatomic particle
European researchers say they have discovered a new subatomic particle that helps confirm our knowledge about how quarks bind — one of the basic forces in the shaping of matter. The CERN physics research center said the particle was discovered at the Compact Muon Solenoid, one of the Large Hadron Collider's two main general-purpose detectors, in collaboration with the University of Zurich.More

Solar nanocrystals float in printable ink
University of Southern California via Futurity
Scientists have developed a potential pathway to cheap, stable solar cells made from nanocrystals so small they can be painted onto clear surfaces as liquid ink. The solar nanocrystals are about four nanometers in size — meaning you could fit more than 250,000,000,000 on the head of a pin — and float them in a liquid solution, so "like you print a newspaper, you can print solar cells," says Richard L. Brutchey, assistant professor of chemistry at University of Southern California.More

Plastics firms target world's largest solar panel producer
Plastics News
Ever since China-based Suntech Power Holdings Co. Ltd. became the world's largest supplier of solar panels, China has dominated the solar market. A push to improve the technology and increase solar capacity domestically is attracting more materials suppliers to the market. In 2011, China's market for solar modules was the third largest in the world and the country's policymakers intend to expand the market even further.More

Scientists discover bilayer structure in efficient solar material
R&D Magazine
Detailed studies of one of the best-performing organic photovoltaic materials reveal an unusual bilayer lamellar structure that may help explain the material's superior performance at converting sunlight to electricity and guide the synthesis of new materials with even better properties.More

Plastic waste into fuel: A new form of recycling?
Plastics Today
A few startups believe the answer to both the world's waste issues and oil concerns can be solved with plastic. Plastic waste, that is. "There's no lack of plastic waste," John Bordynuik, CEO and president of JBI inc. said. "It seems to increase every day." And only about 7 percent of plastic waste in the U.S. is recycled each year, according to the Environmental Protection Agency. Companies like JBI Inc. hope to increase that number by converting plastic waste into fuel.More

BASF oil, gas offsets plastics weakness
BASF reported growing profit from its oil and gas unit as production ramped up in Libya, helping to offset the lower volumes and high raw-material prices that weighed on its legacy chemicals and plastics businesses. The world's largest chemicals maker by sales said first-quarter earnings before interest and tax adjusted for one-off items declined less than expected, easing 7.3 percent to 2.53 billion euros compared with a consensus forecast of 2.32 billion.More

Glowing polymers highlight, eliminate prions in the brain
Science Blog
Toxic prions in the brain can be detected with self-illuminating polymers. The originators, at Linköping University in Sweden, have now shown that the same molecules can also render the prions harmless, and potentially cure fatal nerve-destroying illnesses.More

Researchers create anti-fogging, self-cleaning glass
R&D Magazine
One of the most instantly recognizable features of glass is the way it reflects light. But a new way of creating surface textures on glass, developed by researchers at Massachusetts Institute of Technology, virtually eliminates reflections, producing glass that is almost unrecognizable because of its absence of glare — and whose surface causes water droplets to bounce right off, like tiny rubber balls.More