I have never been a big fan of biodegradable plastics, primarily because of what I consider bogus marketing. There is no environmental advantage to biodegradable packaging unless you’re the type who throws wrappers out of your car window. Properly run landfills are anaerobic. That is, they have no air or water because material degradation is an environmental problem. Chemicals leach into aquifers or form methane gases that contribute to global warming.
A company called Green Toys is now launching toys made from biodegradable plastic. Their pitch is simple and fair: plastics made from corn or potatoes use less energy to produce than plastics made from oil. There is no documentation of that claim on their Web site, however, and there should be because fuel made from corn (ethanol) may consume more petroleum than it saves. Furthermore, Green Toys use biodegradable colorants supplied by PolyOne Corp. That sounds like a real winner.
Green Toys also uses packaging made from recycled materials. Again another real score.
Although plastics make up only about 11% of all US municipal solid waste, many are actually more energy-dense than coal. Converting these non-recycled plastics into energy with existing technologies could reduce US coal consumption, as well as boost domestic energy reserves, says a new study.
This year's Dupont-sponsored WardsAuto survey of automotive designers and other engineers shows lightweighting dominates the discussion. But which materials will help them meet the 2025 CAFE standards are not entirely clear.
Artificially created metamaterials are already appearing in niche applications like electronics, communications, and defense, says a new report from Lux Research. How quickly they become mainstream depends on cost-effective manufacturing methods, which will include additive manufacturing.
SpaceX has 3D printed and successfully hot-fired a SuperDraco engine chamber made of Inconel, a high-performance superalloy, using direct metal laser sintering (DMLS). The company's first 3D-printed rocket engine part, a main oxidizer valve body for the Falcon 9 rocket, launched in January and is now qualified on all Falcon 9 flights.
Focus on Fundamentals consists of 45-minute on-line classes that cover a host of technologies. You learn without leaving the comfort of your desk. All classes are taught by subject-matter experts and all are archived. So if you can't attend live, attend at your convenience.