I have been writing about engineering plastics for more than 20 years, and I never had heard about any relationship between crystallinity and shish-kebabs. That is, until I saw the May 18 issue of Science magazine. It contains an article indicating that polyolefins crystallize into shish-kebab shapes (I couldn’t make this stuff up).More importantly, the researchers who wrote the article say they know how to manipulate the shape of these “shish-kebabs” so that the polymer structure becomes much stronger. "Our discovery is pertinent to the relatively strong and stiff plastics," says Julia Kornfield, chemical engineering professor at Caltech. "For example, it will allow manufacturers to make polymers for complex and beautifully shaped body panels with equal or better quality than currently available—and cheaper and faster." The lead author of the paper is Shuichi Kimata, a former postdoctoral researcher in Kornfield's Caltech lab. He linked Kornfield's group at Caltech with Yoshinobu Nozue's group at Sumitomo and collaborators at the University of Tokyo. The title of the Science paper is "Molecular Basis of the Shish-Kebab Morphology in Polymer Crystallization." What’s the path to commercialization? What’s the timetable? Or is this just an academic tease? Stay tuned.
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