Lithium batteries are used in many devices such as cell phones, computers, and cameras, among others. University of Delaware doctoral student Wei-Fan Kuan is investigating ways to improve membranes used in lithium batteries by capitalizing on the innate properties of block copolymers.
Nerves often die or shrink as a result of disease or injury. Researchers in Michigan and California have recently reported success in developing polymer nanofiber technologies for understanding how nerves form, why they don’t reconnect after injury, and what can be done to prevent or slow damage. The breakthrough involves growing and myelinating nerve cells along thin polymer nanofibers.
After carefully studying the structure of butterfly wings and rice leaves, Ohio State University engineers designed a coated plastic surface resembling a butterfly wing’s texture. Butterflies in the wild need to have bright, clean wings for reproduction and flying, and the surface created by engineers was reportedly easier to keep free of dust particles than a flat surface. The finding could inform designs for a variety of surfaces in various industries.
A team from Massachusetts Institute of Technology have developed, for the first time, a way to measure how many loops are present in a given polymer network, an advance they believe is the first step toward creating better materials that don't contain weak spots.
Microorganisms isolated from nature use their own metabolism to produce certain chemicals. But they are often inefficient, so metabolic engineering is used to improve microbial performance. Recent work at the Korea Advanced Institute of Science and Technology highlights the potential for engineered organism, such as Escherichia coli, to aid in common industrial processes such as polymer production.
A chemical sensing system developed by engineers at the University of Connecticut is believed to be the first of its kind capable of detecting vapors from buried landmines and other explosive devices with the naked eye rather than advanced scientific instrumentation. The key to the system is a fluorescent nanofiberous film that can detect ultra-trace levels of explosive vapors.
A group of Massachusetts Institute of Technology engineers has discovered a way of making perfectly ordered and repeatable surfaces with patterns of microscale wrinkles. The method involves chemical vapor deposition of a layer onto a stretched silicon-polymer substrate. When tension is released first one way, then the other, a perfectly ordered wrinkled pattern emerges.
Plastic semiconductors have an important design flaw: The electronic current is influenced by poorly understood "charge traps" in the material. A new study by an international team of researchers reveals a common mechanism underlying these traps and provides a theoretical framework to design trap-free plastic electronics.
Researchers have discovered yet another way to harvest small amounts of electricity from motion in the world around us—this time by capturing the electrical charge produced when two different kinds of plastic materials rub against one another. Based on flexible polymer materials, this "triboelectric" generator could provide alternating current from activities such as walking.
City officials in Medellín, Colombia, recently faced the difficult task of relocating an entire neighborhood off of a contaminated landfill they were using to grow food and collect water. Unable to pay for removal, officials may have found another way: Researchers at the University of Illinois have put together an experiment to see if biological agents could be used to neutralize the hydrocarbon contaminants at the site.
University of Utah physicists developed an inexpensive, highly accurate magnetic field sensor for scientific and possibly consumer uses based on a “spintronic” organic thin-film semiconductor that basically is “plastic paint.” Its inventors say the new type of magnetometer also resists heat and degradation, works at room temperature and never needs to be calibrated.
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.
Platelets are the components of blood that allow it to prevent excessive bleeding and to heal wounds. Through a complex series of deposition and crosslinking techniques, researchers have recently built a synthetic version of the platelet that shares the natural cells characteristics. Synthetic platelets could have many biomedical uses.
A year after a researcher at Linköping University in Sweden built a fully functional field-effect transistor from plastic, another scientist at the same institution has shown that it is possible to control these transistors with great precision, allowing the device to function as a logic circuit.
The U.S. Army Research Laboratory-led Army ManTech program has achieved a breakthrough in the ability to process thermoplastic-based composites for use in the helmets of soldiers. The new material grades have produced several types of head protection, each of which saves at least one-quarter the weight and up to 35% higher tolerance from fragmenting munitions.
A French-American collaboration has developed a new combination of polymers that makes it possible to design ultra-thin films capable of self-organization with a 5-nm resolution. These hybrid copolymers are based on sugars and oil-based macromolecules. Previous attempts using nothing but oil-based molecules were limited to 20 nm in thickness.
Development of new therapies for a range of medical conditions, including sports injuries and heart attacks, could depend on a new production-scale microthread extruder developed by a team of graduate students and biomedical engineering faculty at Worcester Polytechnic Institute. The microthreads would support tissue regeneration, wound healing, and cell therapy.
A team of chemical engineers at the University of Massachusetts Amherst has found an inexpensive way to achieve a 75% yield from biomass for the formation of the chemical p-xylene, a key ingredient used to make plastic bottles. This chemical is normally made using petroleum.
Using a self-assembly method that combines synthetic molecules typically used in photocopying, researchers in France and Germany have made highly conductive plastic fibers that are only several nanometers thick.
Bayer MaterialScience has developed an extensive range of polyurethane materials that can reduce the weight of finished parts by up to 30%. To be showcased at UTECH 2012, the Bayflex RIM LightWeight material has a density of 0.9 kg/l and is lighter than water.
A new genre of plastics that mimic the human skin's ability to heal scratches and cuts offers the promise of endowing cell phones, laptops, cars, and other products with self-repairing surfaces, scientists reported. The plastics change color to warn of wounds and heal themselves when exposed to light.
Just as a chameleon changes its color to blend in with its environment, Duke University engineers have demonstrated for the first time that they can alter the texture of plastics on demand, for example, switching back and forth between a rough surface and a smooth one.
Inspired by nature's ability to shape a petal, and building on simple techniques used in photolithography and printing, researchers at the University of Massachusetts Amherst have developed a new tool for manufacturing three-dimensional shapes easily and cheaply. A new method of gel lithography allowed them to photo-pattern polymer gel sheets that can then be shaped at will.
Bioengineers at the University of California, San Diego have invented a self-healing hydrogel that binds quickly, as easily as Velcro, and forms a bond strong enough to withstand repeated stretching. Computer simulations of the gel network helped them discover the key to its properties: the length of side chain molecules, or fingers.
The diesel engine housing for a train has to be tough enough to protect the engine at high speeds, but also to contain fire and oil leaks Researchers in Germany who have developed an extremely durable polyurethane sandwich material say it’s tough enough to replace aluminum or steel in these types of applications, and at a weight savings of up to 35%.