To manufacture plastic parts with high-end surfaces, the entire forming tool is heated to 110 C using a technique known as variothermic tempering. To retrieve the finished plastic part, the mold must be cooled by up to 30 C, consuming lots of energy. Researchers have now developed a new kind of tempering technique that is up to 90% more energy efficient than variothermic tempering approaches.
Heating a sheet of plastic may not bring it to life, but it sure looks like it does in new experiments at Rice Univ. The materials created by Rice polymer scientist Rafael Verduzco and his colleagues start as flat slabs, but they morph into shapes that can be controlled by patterns written into their layers.
Researchers in Singapore and at IBM Research in California have discovered a new, potentially life-saving application for polyethylene terephthalate (PET), which is widely used to make plastic bottles. They have successfully converted PET into a non-toxic biocompatible material with superior fungal killing properties. This could help prevent and treat various fungus-induced diseases such as keratitis.
The research team was inspired by biological processes in species such as amphibians, which can regenerate severed limbs, engineers in Pittsburgh have developed computational models to design a new polymer gel that would enable complex materials to regenerate bulk sections of severed material using nanorods.
Massachusetts Institute of Technology chemical engineers have developed a novel way to generate nanoparticles that can recognize specific molecules, opening up a new approach to building durable sensors for many different compounds, among other applications. To create these “synthetic antibodies,” the researchers used carbon nanotubes.
A team of researchers has uncovered critical information that could help scientists understand how protein polymers interact with other self-assembling biopolymers. The research helps explain naturally occurring nanomaterial within cells and could one day lead to engineered bio-composites for drug delivery, artificial tissue, bio-sensing, or cancer diagnosis.
Polymer scientists have recently published an article that describes a new principle for the self-assembly of patterned nanoparticles. This principle may have important implications for the fundamental understanding of such processes, as well as future technologies.
Researchers from the Univ. of Helsinki, FInland, have managed to draw in an alcohol-based solution using laser light. Light-sensitive polymers are not new, but a new soluble, photosensitive polymer can be dissolved partially by a 365-nm laser, allowing a ray of light can “draw” in an ethanol-based dispersion of the polymer.
Renewable sources like sun and wind aren’t always productive. But waves in the ocean are never still, prompting Georgia Institute of Technology scientists to find a way to produce energy by making use of contact electrification between a patterned plastic nanoarray and water. They have introduced an inexpensive and simple prototype of a triboelectric nanogenerator that could be used to produce energy and as a chemical or temperature sensor.
Researchers in Australia have developed a process for turning waste plastic bags into a high-tech nanomaterial. The furnace-driven process uses non-biodegradable plastic grocery bags to produce carbon layers that line pores in nanoporous alumina membranes. The result is carbon nanotube membranes.
Imagine an electronic display nearly as clear as a window, or a curtain that illuminates a room, or a smartphone screen that doubles in size, stretching like rubber. Now imagine all of these being made from the same material. Researchers from Univ. of California, Los Angeles have developed a transparent, elastic OLED that could one day make all these possible.
Anyone who’s stuffed a smartphone in their back pocket would appreciate the convenience of electronic devices that could bend. Alas, electronic components are generally made from stiff and brittle metals and inorganic semiconductors. Now, researchers have created the first theoretical framework seeking to understand, predict and improve the conductivity of semiconducting polymers.
Traditionally, the training of bomb-sniffing dogs has been a hazardous job, but newly developed odor-releasing materials could take the risk out of that work. Scientists at NIST are seeking to patent a novel system that can capture scents and release them over time.
Water pours into a cup at about the same rate regardless of whether the water bottle is made of glass or plastic. But at nanometer-size scales, material type does make a significant difference. A new study shows that in nanoscopic channels, the effective viscosity of water in channels made of glass can be twice as high as water in plastic channels, potentially affecting a variety of research approaches.
Scientists in Spain have reported the first self-healing polymer that spontaneously and independently repairs itself without any intervention. The researchers have dubbed the material a “Terminator” polymer in tribute to the shape-shifting, molten T-100 terminator robot from the Terminator 2 film.
A plastic material already used in absorbable surgical sutures and other medical devices shows promise for continuous administration of antibiotics to patients with brain infections, scientists are reporting in a new study. Use of the material, placed directly on the brain’s surface, could reduce the need for weeks of costly hospital stays now required for such treatment.
Getting biomolecules past the body’s numerous defenses requires innovations such as drug-delivering nanoparticles. Polylactic acid (PLA) is a potential candidate because it is non-toxic, biodegradable, and spontaneously assembles into tiny structures under the right conditions. Researchers in Singapore have developed a robust method to synthesize PLA nanoparticles using copolymer technology and a rigid “nanocage” made from silicon.
Improvements to lithium-ion batteries have been difficult in part because of the relative simplicity of the battery. However, the glue-like binders used to hold electrode materials in place have been identified as a potential area for improvements. Typically, these anodic materials have been based on graphite. At Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, a Conducting Polymer Binder has been developed based on silicon and offers four features of improvement over previous technologies.
The Dow Chemical Co. has developed a new binder, called EVOQUE Pre-Composite Polymer Technology, which interacts with the surface of titanium dioxide to improve dispersal.
Most solar cells today are inorganic and made of crystalline silicon. These cells tend to be expensive, rigid and relatively inefficient when it comes to converting sunlight into electricity. Work by a team of chemical engineers at Penn State Univ. and Rice Univ. may lead to a new class of inexpensive organic solar cells, one that skips difficult-to-scale fullerene acceptors and relies on molecular self-assembly instead.
Polyethylene, an inexpensive commodity plastic, has been successfully used by researchers to synthesize the “ideal” polymer nanocrystal. Normally, this plastic is only partly crystalline, but a new catalyst has produced material that eliminates amorphous structures. The crystalline nanostructure could prove of interest to production of new kinds of coatings.
Polymer, or plastic, solar cells contain Earth-abundant and environmentally benign materials, can be made flexible and lightweight, and can be fabricated using roll-to-roll technologies. But the cells’ power-conversion efficiency has been limited. A Northwestern Univ. research reports the design and synthesis of new polymer semiconductors a plastic solar cells with fill factors of 80%. This number is close to that of silicon solar cells.
A team of chemists at Syracuse Univ. has used a temperature-sensitive polymer to regulate DNA interactions in both a DNA-mediated assembly system and a DNA-encoded drug-delivery system. Their findings may improve how nanomaterials self-assemble into functional devices and how anticancer drugs, including doxorubicin, are delivered into the body.
A new cost-effective polymer membrane can decrease the cost of alkaline batteries and fuel cells by allowing the replacement of expensive platinum catalysts without sacrificing important aspects of performance, according to Penn State Univ. researchers.
Scientists have spent decades trying to build flexible plastic solar cells efficient enough to compete with conventional cells made of silicon. To boost performance, research groups have tried creating new plastic materials that enhance the flow of electricity through the solar cell. Recently, scientists discovered that disorder at the molecular level actually improves the polymers' performance.