SPE Industry Update
Sep. 9, 2015

Solar Energy Market-Ready Materials and Processing
By Don Rosato
For polymer-based organic photovoltaic (PV) cells, scientists have long believed the key to high efficiencies rested in the purity of the cell's two domains, namely acceptor and donor. To improve cell efficiency, many researchers have focused on tweaking the backbones of existing donor and acceptor materials or on designing new ones. Now, however, improvement in the core array of connected photovoltaic cells has come from a new path to a more efficient organic PV surface. Scientists using Berkeley Lab's Advanced Light Source (ALS) have shown an alternate and possibly easier route forward.More

Efficient Manufacturing of Lightweight Composite Car Seats
SPE Plastics Research Online
Fiber-reinforced plastics (FRPs) are composite materials that consist of a polymer matrix (e.g., thermoplastic or thermoset) reinforced with fibers (e.g., made of glass or carbon). It is common for FRPs to find applications in several industries, such as aerospace, automotive, construction, and defense. Conventional FRPs, i.e., those made out of thermosets or short-fiber-reinforced thermoplastics, however, are unsuitable (with regard to cost, weight, performance, and cycle times) for some automotive applications (e.g., the manufacturing of car seats).More

Click Chemistry Creates Precision Polymers
Royal Society of Chemistry
Creating polymers with a controlled length and stereochemistry is an area where nature is currently streets ahead of science. But researchers at Massachusetts Institute of Technology have come closer to closing the gap, with an efficient strategy that allows them to synthesize a new family of uni-molecular, sequence- and stereo-defined polymers using click chemistry. Similar polymers have been created by adding one monomer at a time to a growing chain attached to a solid or soluble polymer support, but limited yields and inefficient use of reagents can result.More

Lego Begins Building its Sustainable Materials Staff
Plastics News
LEGO A/S has started hiring engineers to follow through on its promise to bring a bio-based resin to the market for its plastic bricks. In early 2015, the Billund, Denmark-based toymaker said that it would spend 1 billion Danish kroner, or about $152 million, to find a more sustainable alternative to its existing standard ABS used throughout its production. The investment includes establishing the Lego Sustainable Materials Center in Billund, which will focus on finding and implementing alternatives to petroleum-based materials.More

New Method to Produce Transparent, Fluorine-Free, Anti-Smudge Polyurethane Coatings
Self-cleaning windows, stain-resistant automobile interiors, graffiti-proof walls — there is a long list of things that we wish could have a surface to which dirt wouldn’t stick. In the journal Angewandte Chemie, Canadian scientists have now introduced a new method for producing transparent, smudge-resistant coatings resistant to both water- and oil-soluble contaminants. In contrast to previous approaches, this method does not use fluorinated substances, which makes the coatings both significantly less expensive and more environmentally friendly.More

May the ABS be with You
Plastics News
Almost four decades since a little film called “Star Wars” first brought viewers to a galaxy far, far away, the story and characters George Lucas created live on in popular imagination. Some of the franchise’s most memorable visuals — a soldier’s grimacing helmet, a droid’s polished shell, a villain’s shadowy silhouette — were achieved using plastics. To craft the ultimate soldier — the stormtrooper — costume makers produced dozens of sets of identical white battle armor, vacuum formed in ABS. With variations appearing in all seven “Star Wars” films, the costume has become a seminal image of the “Star Wars” franchise.More

This Self-Healing Future Material just Sticks Itself Back Together When it gets Wet
Fast Company
If you chop this new bioplastic into pieces, they’ll join back together, as good as new, just by adding a drop of water. "What's unique about this plastic is the ability to stick itself back together with a drop of water," says Melik Demirel, professor at Penn State. "There are other materials that are self-healing, but not with water." The inspiration for Demirel and his team came from squid teeth, which are self-healing. But instead of just harvesting squid, the team built the necessary proteins using bacteria to manufacture the material. The resulting material can be molded or cast.More

Small, Smaller, Smallest
Plastics Engineering
Micromolded parts are getting dramatically smaller and more detailed. For years a PET component weighing 0.00012 grams was claimed to be the smallest micromolded plastic part in the world. It was molded by MTD Micromolding in Charlton, Massachusetts, USA (formerly Miniature Tool & Die) in 1998, and first reported in 2002. Today the “world’s smallest” is arguably an ethylene vinyl acetate ophthalmic implant for glaucoma, molded by MTD a few years ago, weighing only 0.00000313 grams. Part geometries and functional surface textures have also gotten infinitesimally fine.More

Researchers to Investigate Creating New Plastics from Old Straw
Imperial College
Imperial scientists are joining a European consortium that will assess how waste agricultural products can be used to make biodegradable packaging. The ADMIT BioSuccInnovate Consortium will investigate the use of agricultural wastes and residues, such as wheat and maize straw – as well as low-maintenance energy crops Elephant grass and willow – as the raw materials to produce biosuccinic acid, a chemical building block used in producing bioplastics.More