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.
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.
Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory and MIT have 3D-printed a new class of metamaterials that are both exceptionally light and have exceptional strength and stiffness. The new metamaterials maintain a nearly constant stiffness per unit of mass density, over three orders of magnitude.
Smart composites that let the material's structural health be monitored automatically and continuously are getting closer to reality. R&D partners in an EU-sponsored project have demonstrated what they say is the first complete, miniaturized, fiber-optic sensor system entirely embedded inside a fiber-reinforced composite.
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