SPE Industry Update
Dec. 28, 2011

Scientists and engineers create the 'perfect plastic'
Oct. 12, 2011 issue: Researchers at the University of Leeds and Durham University have solved a long-standing problem that could revolutionize the way new plastics are developed. The breakthrough will allow experts to create the 'perfect plastic' with specific uses and properties by using a high-tech 'recipe book.' It will also increase our ability to recycle plastics. The research paper was published in the journal Science.More

New metals are moldable like plastic
March 9, 2011 issue: New forms of metal can be turned into complex shapes easily and inexpensively like plastic but retain the metals' strength and durability, U.S. researchers say. Materials scientists as Yale University say some recently developed bulk metallic glasses — alloys with randomly arranged atoms rather than ordinary metals' rigid, orderly structure — can be blow molded like plastics into complex shapes that can't be achieved using regular metal but without sacrificing any of the metals' characteristic strength.More

A way to recycle every bit of plastic
Discovery News
Jan. 5, 2011 issue: After the holiday gift-giving binge, there tends to be a big pile, a sad pile of plastic packaging, wrapping, containers and unnecessary parts that are too iffy for the recycling bin. Now engineers in the United Kingdom have new tech that can even turn the toughest plastic blends into reusable materials.More

Canada unveils 'polymer' money
Yahoo News
June 29, 2011 issue: The Bank of Canada is rolling out new, plastic-based $100 bills, which will hit the country's wallets by November. In this frankly mesmerizing video, above, a narrator explains the bill's numerous security features, including a hidden circle of numbers that match the note's value. It can only be seen by holding up the "frosted maple leaf window" to a "single-point light source."More

Chemists develop fully biodegradable and recyclable synthetic resin
Jan 19, 2011 issue: Modern synthetic resins are made from fossil sources, are not biodegradable and can only be burned under strict precautions due to the release of toxic substances. Gadi Rothenberg and Albert Alberts of the University of Amsterdam have discovered a range of new thermoset resins made from renewable raw materials which are fully biodegradable, non-toxic and non-hazardous.More

Converting plastic back to the oil it came from
Fast Company
Sept. 7, 2011 issue: It's one thing to make plastic from petroleum — that's pretty standard. It's another to reverse the process, and refuel your car with old plastic trash. That's one application for what the city of Akron, Ohio, is planning to do with its brand new facility built by Greenstar Recycling and Vadxx Energy.More

Electrically-conducting plastic gets simple and affordable
March 2, 2011 issue: A team of Australian researchers at the University of New South Wales have discovered a technique that can turn almost any plastic into a superconducting material. Plastics are well known for being lousy conductors, and are used to insulate electric cables, but by placing a thin film of metal onto a sheet of plastic and mixing the metal into the polymer with an ion beam, the researchers can make cheap, strong and flexible plastics, with impressive conducting powers.More

Solar power enters the plastic age
Feb. 2, 2011 issue: Cheaper and lighter compared to its more expensive, cumbersome silicon cousin, plastic photovoltaics could herald a revolution in the solar power market, according to a U.K. solar panel expert. "Plastics are much cheaper to process than silicon. In principle the devices we've been making might be very, very cheap and cover large areas," said David Lidzey from the U.K.'s University of Sheffield. More

Cheap shale gas means record US chemical industry growth
Aug. 17, 2011 issue: Dow Chemical spent a decade moving chemical production to the Middle East and Asia. Now it's leading the biggest expansion ever seen back home in the U.S. as shale gas revives the industry's economics. Dow is among companies planning to build crackers, industrial plants typically costing $1.5 billion apiece that process hydrocarbons into ethylene and other synthetic materials.More

Plastic bags 'not eco-villains after all'
The Independent
March 2, 2011 issue: Unpublished U.K. government research suggests the plastic carrier may not be an eco villain after all – but, whisper it, an unsung hero. Hated by environmentalists and shunned by shoppers, the disposable plastic bag is piling up in a shame-filled corner of retail history. But a draft report by the Environment Agency, has found that ordinary high density polythene bags used by shops are actually greener than supposedly low impact choices.More

Recycled plastic ties coming to some US railroads
Feb. 9, 2011 issue: The U.S. railroad is about to get a minor makeover. Axion International has won a $15 million contract to make railroad ties made from recycled plastic, the company announced recently. The railroad ties will specifically be made of Recycled Structural Composite, the signature recycled plastic composite developed by Axion in conjunction with Rutgers University in New Jersey.More

Exotic discovery made in soft polymer
Jan. 12, 2011 issue: Professor Frank S. Bates and his research team at the University of Minnesota in Minneapolis have discovered an unusual type of soft material that was conceived of over 50 years ago, but has never before been found in a plastic — although it has been seen in stainless steel and other metal alloys.More

A brief history of plastic's conquest of the world
Scientific American
June 8, 2011 issue: Plastics freed us from the confines of the natural world, from the material constraints and limited supplies that had long bounded human activity. That new elasticity unfixed social boundaries as well. The arrival of these malleable and versatile materials gave producers the ability to create a treasure trove of new products while expanding opportunities for people of modest means to become consumers.More

Japanese disaster disrupts materials production
Plastics & Rubber Weekly
March 23, 2011 issue: The massive earthquake and tsunami that struck Japan on March 11 has disrupted production of some plastic materials and products. More than 5,000 deaths and 2,000 injuries had been reported from the 9.0 magnitude quake as of March 17. The epicenter of the quake was located about 80 miles off the east coast of northern Japan, roughly 200 miles away from Tokyo. More

University of Minnesota breakthrough in fuel cost, efficiency
Oct. 19, 2011 issue: University of Minnesota researchers have overcome a major hurdle in designing a more cost effective and energy efficient gasoline, plastics and various chemicals. The specialized type of molecular sieve could make the production of gasoline and related products more cost effective and energy efficient. More