SPE Industry Update
Jun. 13, 2012

Steel-strength plastics — and green, too
American Friends of Tel Aviv University via e! Science News
As landfills overflow with discarded plastics, scientists have been working to produce a biodegradable alternative that will reduce pollution. Now, a Tel Aviv University researcher is giving the quest for environmentally friendly plastics an entirely new dimension — by making them tougher than ever before. Professor Moshe Kol of TAU's School of Chemistry is developing a super-strength polypropylene that has the potential to replace steel and other materials used in everyday products.More

Influence of surface texture on scratch behavior of molded plastics
SPE Plastics Research Online
A good design of surface texture for plastic products used in the automotive industry and other interior applications should provide comfort and aesthetics without sacrificing surface performance. Scratches and visible scratch damage are undesirable in many applications that demand high surface durability and quality for long-term usage. The scratch behavior of polymers is very complex and depends on various parameters. More

Understanding high-impact polystyrene blends better
SPE Plastics Research Online
Polystyrene has become one of the principal general-purpose plastics, and its many advantages have led to its use all over the world for many different purposes. However, general-purpose polystyrene is brittle and breaks on impact, but this can be modified with the addition of polybutadiene to form high-impact polystyrene. Molecular simulation shows the effect of graft structure on the miscibility and impact resistance of polystyrene blends with polybutadiene. More

Renewable energy's growing pains
Renewable energy received record investment in 2011 and expanded massively, but it also struggled with dwindling political support and plummeting prices. The industry faces several more years of growing pains before it can properly compete with fossil fuels. By the end of 2011, the global power capacity from renewables was more than 1360 gigawatts, and renewables supplied 20.3 percent of global electricity, according to a new report.More

Big US firms team up on plant plastics
Five of the biggest names in American business have formed a group to accelerate the development and use of plant-based plastic. Coca-Cola Co., Ford Motor Co., H.J. Heinz Co., Nike Inc. and Procter & Gamble Co. said they are committed to advancing research and development to support a commercially viable, sustainably sourced plastic made entirely from plant materials, while reducing the use of fossil fuels.More

Plastics play key role in new appliance sustainability standards
Plastics News
Plastics can play a big role in a new sustainability standard for household refrigerators, according to an industry expert. "There is no question plastics are covered in a lot of places in the standard," said Wayne Morris, vice president of technology and operational standard for the Association of Home Appliance Manufacturers, one of the main authors of the standard, which awards points in several areas as measured against best practice.More

Toronto plastic bag ban: Can the city actually do this?
The Toronto Star
Mayor Rob Ford is fuming. Environmentalists are applauding. Retailers are scrambling. And just about everybody is trying to figure lots of things out. In its most surprising major decision in recent memory, Toronto's City Council voted out of the blue to ban plastic shopping bags as of Jan. 1. One of the many lingering questions: Does the city actually have the authority to ban plastic bags?More

New twist on old chemical process could boost energy efficiency
University of Washington via PhysOrg
Chemical reactions on the surface of metal oxides, such as titanium dioxide and zinc oxide, are important for applications such as solar cells that convert the sun's energy to electricity. Now, scientists have found that a previously unappreciated aspect of those reactions could be key in developing more efficient energy systems.More

Virtual injection molding: Simulation offers more than flow analysis
Plastics Today
For mold-makers who wish they could simulate the molding process without having to build a prototype mold first, Sigmasoft software may be the answer. Using a completely 3-D approach and the integration of a highly developed thermal solver, the injection-molding simulation software allows the calculation of multiple consecutive production cycles, considering the thermal interactions throughout all the components in the mold. The accuracy of the entire simulation is thus dramatically increased.More

Making copies of the Met's masterpieces with a 3-D printer
Discover Magazine
One of 3-D printing's most whimsical promises is the ability to copy and riff on nearly any physical object. Recently, that promise became a reality: A group of 3-D printing enthusiasts from the MakerBot community visited the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City and scanned 34 sculptures with 3-D capture software loaded on their phones, while Met curators guided them through the galleries.More

Tabletop X-rays light up
The pressurized, cylindrical chamber fits in the palm of a hand. Yet out of one end of the device comes an X-ray beam that packs almost as much punch as the light generated by massive particle accelerators. Researchers have reported the first tabletop source of ultrashort, laserlike pulses of low energy — or "soft" — X-rays. The researchers say a future soft X-ray source will open up X-ray studies for materials scientists, biologists and others.More

Carbon nanotubes enable highly energy-efficient computing
Live Science
Miniaturization is the principal driver of the semiconductor industry, and the most significant challenge to continued miniaturization of electronic systems is energy efficiency. To this end, carbon nanotubes are a significant departure from traditional silicon technologies and a promising path to solving the challenge of energy efficiency in computer circuits.More

Teaching self-assembling structures a new trick
Massachusetts Institute of Technology via R&D Magazine
Researchers at Massachusetts Institute of Technology have found a new way of making complex 3-D structures using self-assembling polymer materials that form tiny wires and junctions. The work has the potential to usher in a new generation of microchips and other devices made up of submicroscopic features. This is the first time self-assembling structures have been extended into three dimensions with different, independent configurations on different layers, the researchers say.More

Theorem unifies superfluids and other weird materials
University of California-Berkeley via PhysOrg
Matter exhibits weird properties at very cold temperatures. Take superfluids, for example: Discovered in 1937, they can flow without resistance forever, spookily climbing the walls of a container and dripping onto the floor. Researchers have now discovered a commonality among these materials that can be used to predict or even design new materials that will exhibit such unusual behavior.More