Solar panel frames (1) are getting lighter, and the electrical junction boxes (2) and connectors (3) that carry the electrical current they generate are getting smaller, aided by plastics with low-temperature impact resistance that meet electrical and flame retardancy requirements. (Source: SABIC Innovative Plastics)
A few years ago, I wrote a trend report titled "Smaller, Faster, Better" highlighting not only nano and micro technologies but also a general sizing down across the board. A striking number of experts dismissed it as irrelevant for the American market. I love having articles like this that back up my trend reports with current information. Thank you!
I'd love to see the process 3M and IBM are developing in action. It sounds amazing. It's good to see 3M in new areas.
Some of the most interesting and fun applications I found during reporting this story were the small health monitoring devices. For example, you can see pictures of the Japanese swallowable endoscope in use, both outside and inside the body, here: http://sanfrancisco.ibtimes.com/articles/170187/20110627/japanese-scientists-invent-mermaid-tiny-remote-controlled-pill-camera-examine-digestive-tract.htm and a video of one from the University of Washington here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AlQN3c04mu0
Dow Chemical and several other companies have launched a program in Omaha, Neb. to divert about 36 tons of plastics from landfills in its first phase, and convert it into energy used for cement production.
A make-your-own Star Wars Sith Lightsaber hilt is heftier and better-looking than most others out there, according to its maker, Sean Charlesworth. You can 3D print it from free source files, and there's even a hardware kit available -- not free -- so you can build one just in time for Halloween.
Some next-generation bio-based materials are superior in performance to their petro-based counterparts, but also face some commercial challenges. This is especially true of certain biopolymers, adhesives, coatings, and advanced materials.
Cars and other vehicles, as well as electronics and medical devices, continue to lead the use cases for the new plastics products we've been seeing, as engineers design products for tougher environments.
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