The best hope for new bioplastics is to find niche applications where they fill a technical need. One great new example comes out of Cornell University, where research set up a company called Novomer to develop plastics made from carbon dioxide and cirtus fruits. Aliphatic polycarbonates (APCs) made from the process are biodegradable, biocompatible, are optically clear and provide high oxygen and water barrier. They’re also quite pricey – say $50 a pound an up.
Novomer today announced its first commercial product — NB-180, a poly(propylene carbonate) (PPC) sacrificial binder that burns cleaner, more uniformly and at lower temperatures than currently available products. Sacrificial binders provide mechanical strength to ensure uniform consistency, solidification or adhesion during manufacturing processes. Application areas are extremely broad and include advanced ceramics, microelectronics, nanotechnology, metal brazing and fuel cells. It’s aimed at assembly of micro- and nano-scale devices.
Fox Holt, product manager for Novomer says there are no plans yet to use the material as a sacrificial binder in powder injection molding – a mass market where it could really achieve some volume.
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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