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The Perfect Plastic: Another Tech Revolution?

The future is plastics. Or so they said. It’s looking that way again and here’s why.

Engineers and science researchers in the UK say they’ve got a way to make “a better plastic.” A practically perfect plastic. A stronger, more flexible plastic that will be widely available quickly.

Plastic is ubiquitous in household, business and industrial materials. Revolutionize plastic and you revolutionize tech. The ramifications are huge if this so-called “recipe” does as promised.

Plastic Polymer

Photo credit: Ethan Hein / Creative Commons. a polymer opb.org

University of Leeds and Durham University researchers say the breakthrough was, of all things, a computational 3D math model. Math, physics and astronomy researchers had been working on new mathematical models to streamline manufacturing for some time.

Then they hit on this.

The two-part logic model is predictive at core. One major set of instructions examines and continually predicts the flow of polymers across connections. The other instruction set aims to predict the physical, 3D molecular shape molecules will take as they cross and modify the manufacturing to that precise a molecular level.

Created in labs of the Microscale Polymer Processing project, the mathematic models researchers came up with show a smarter way to manufacture oil and bio based plastics. It is all software-customizable. Think WYSIWYG — but for plastic and the polymers that comprise it — at the molecular level.

This mathematical model can be modified for bio-based plastics just by changing a few numbers.

In case you ever wondered, here’s how the typical polymer output plastics factory works.

Professor Tom McLeish at Durham University and head of the Microscale Polymer Processing project likens it to a recipe for edgy new materials.

Lucite International’s Dr. Ian Robinson said the model is akin to decoding the genome but for plastics — “cracking a plastics ‘DNA’.”

The British Plastics Federation lists the benefits of the perfect plastic project. The Microscale Polymer Processing collaboration has more to say about its innovation.

There are already whistle blowers and industry watchers keeping a close eye on plastics as a whole.

According to the folks at green.blorge.com, “expect to see improved and possibly new plastics that we use every day such as in cars, bottles, toys, plastic ware, pet crates, pens, packaging, thermal drinking cups, computers, electronics, etc. Plastic is in so many things that we use everyday, that there is just no way of naming them all.  With this new mathematical model, we may find plastics taking over yet more of our lives.”

Find the research papers here.

What do you think?

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2 Responses to The Perfect Plastic: Another Tech Revolution?

  1. Gina Smith October 10, 2011 at 12:07 am #

    I freely admit I’m a materials science geek wannabe. LOL gs

  2. Brian Burgess October 10, 2011 at 1:06 am #

    This is great stuff! Glad you’re a materials science geek. 🙂

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