SPE Industry Update
Jan. 30, 2013

Medical plastics: Turning to the humble gecko
Plastics News
Polymers for use in the medical industry are most commonly processed in all the usual ways: injection molding, extrusion, blow molding. But beyond the realms of standard medical devices, some curious and alien techniques come into effect. These are being used in order to create intricate and detailed surfaces that have very specific medical effects. For example, scientists in the United States have created microscopic polyurethane structures that mimic the way that a gecko's foot sticks to a surface.More

Influence of rare-earth thermal stabilizers on polyvinyl chloride
SPE Plastics Research Online
PVC is one of the five most-commonly used thermoplastics. It has superior mechanical and physical properties, high chemical and abrasion resistance, and is widely used in durable applications. However, low thermal stability is its main limitation. Consequently, suitable amounts of stabilizers must be added to restrict the degradation of PVC during thermal processing.More

Optimizing the performance of silica/polyvinyl chloride composites
SPE Plastics Research Online
PVC-based materials are commonly used today in a variety of applications, such as window frames, pipes and electric cables. In the past few years, considerable effort has been devoted to further improving the mechanical performance of PVC by incorporating fillers such as layered clay and other inorganic particles, and trying to strike an optimal balance between the properties of the resulting composite.More

Green matter: Can algae live up to their promise?
Plastics Today
There's apparently no end to the sheer inventiveness displayed by researchers and the industry when it comes to putting the "bio" into biopolymers. Orange peel, peat, tannery waste, sewerage sludge, insect cuticle — you name it, if it's biological in origin, you can be sure that somebody, somewhere has tried turning it into a biogases polymer. Right now, it's algae that are once again grabbing the headlines.More

Cooking up natural plastics
It's time for a bit of cooking at a research institute in Brindisi, Southern Italy. The recipe is simple: a splashing of natural textiles, a good dose of partially-bio resin and a pinch of bio-additives and enzymes. Stir well and place your mixture in an oven for a few hours. It is, in fact, a new composite structure born out of renewable materials. And it is these scientists' dream that this new ecomaterial will soon replace plastic composites.More

Biodegradable plastic made from sugar
Polymer Solutions
What could be sweeter than a new food packaging plastic that is biodegradable, keeps food protected better, is stronger than other recyclable plastic — and is made from sugar? The new plastic, a monomer glycolic acid called PGA, is made from renewable cane sugar. Its production and use may signal a significant shift toward bio-based products and away from our dependence on plastics made from petroleum.More

A magnetic quantum ratchet made of graphene turns AC to DC
Ars Technica
Researchers have fabricated a magnetic quantum ratchet out of graphene, a two-dimensional hexagonal lattice of carbon atoms. When they exposed the modified graphene to an alternating electric current and a strong magnetic field, its electrons preferentially moved in one direction, setting up a directed current. So the modified graphene acted as an AC/DC converter. Although it's not practically useful, the behavior may tell us more about the rules that govern graphene-like materials.More

Engineers report research milestone in flexible composites
University of Delaware
Researchers recently reported success in fabricating flexible composites based on carbon nanotube fibers. Both light and strong, CNTs are known as a revolutionary material with excellent mechanical, electrical and thermal properties. Continuous CNT fibers are one-dimensional assemblies of CNTs that show potential to retain the superb properties of individual CNTs on a macroscopic scale. They belong to a new class of nanostructured materials with potential applications in electronics, sensing and conducting wires.More

Nanotubes can harm beneficial soil microbes
Purdue University via Futurity
Some carbon nanotubes used for strengthening plastics may have an adverse effect on soil microbiology. Specifically, these raw, nonfunctionalized single-walled carbon nanotubes were shown to damage the active microbes in low-organic soil. Ron Turco, a professor of agronomy at Purdue University, says many of the bacteria affected could be involved in carbon and nitrogen cycling, which are critical processes to ensure a fully functional soil.More

Study explores the potential benefits, threats of nanotechnology research
Every day scientists learn more about how the world works at the smallest scales. While this knowledge has the potential to help others, it's possible that the same discoveries can also be used in ways that cause widespread harm. A new article in Nanomedicine tackles this complex "dual-use" aspect of nanotechnology research.More

3-D printed plastic hits Paris fashion week
European Plastics News
Dutch designer Iris van Herpen sent models down the runway at Paris Fashion Week wearing outfits made out of thermoplastic polyurethane. One model wore a skirt and cape printed by using Stratasys' Objet Connex multimaterial 3-D printing technology. This technology allowed the designer, working in collaboration with Neri Oxman from MIT, to incorporate hard and soft materials in the design.More

Versalis, Yulex in biorubber project in Europe
Versalis, owned by Italian energy group Eni, said it has teamed up with U.S.-based Yulex for a biorubber production project in Europe. The project will cover the entire manufacturing chain from crop science to biorubber extraction to the construction of a biomass power station. Versalis said the biorubber will be used for various applications, initially focusing on consumer and medical specialty markets, then expanding into the tire industry later on.More

China, US manufacturing jumps while Europe sees hopeful signs
Manufacturing in China and the United States grew this month at the fastest pace in about two years while data suggesting German growth picked up boosted hopes for a swifter euro zone recovery. The business surveys provided tentative signs that the world economy may be gaining traction after a sluggish 2012. Crucially, there were hopeful signals coming from the United States and China, the world's top economies.More

Is manufacturing 'cool' again?
Project Syndicate
Once upon a time, ambitious young people with a knack for math and science went to work in manufacturing. They designed planes, computers and furniture, figured out how to lay out an assembly line, helped to make new cars faster and refrigerators more efficient, pushed the limits of computer chips and invented new medicines. But, as the role of manufacturing diminished in advanced economies, the brightest talents tended to gravitate to finance and other service fields that were growing rapidly — and paying well.More