Memory Polymers Are Stronger, Cheaper & Recyclable
A scanning electron microscopy image of IBM's new ultra-strong polymer, shown here reinforced with carbon nanotubes. The new polymers self-heal back to their original shape, resist solvents and cracking, and can also be recycled all the way back to their starting material with identical properties. (Source: IBM)
For a long time there has been a big problem on use of materials that cause environmental pollution when disposed of, that are weak in nature, and relatively expensive. Well, things can be made easier with the acquisition of the Stronger, lighter, cheaper, self-healing, and recyclable, too. They're all true about its new family of industrial thermoset polymers. These materials are also incapable of cracking, reacting with solvents and what is more interesting is that they can be able to self heal to their original form.
Thanks, Clinton. We've written a few articles on self-healling plastics (see the Related posts list), and several give info on how they work, or links to that info. This goes beyond all of them--the materials are a completely new class of polymers, constructed differently from others. Leave it to IBM to come up with that! I agree about the price point.
Nice article. I have been reading about self-healing plastics for awhile now, but this was the first article (with video) that had any specific details about how it works.
That the material is also recyclable is pretty amazing.
The price point should be interesting, and will determine what products and which industries use it first.
Naperlou's comment and your response are a good example of how the benefits of a new material can be missed because of one's viewpoint. As a product designer working for a plastics manufacturer, decreasing rejected parts was the first thing that came to my mind, followed by the effect the material might have on the performance of my designs in the field.
Advances like these will find applications and will bring benefits.
Lou, the attraction in electronics is not for end users so much as for manufacturers not having to throw away expensive chips or subassemblies during manufacturing, as we mention, which could boost yields. Recyclability is also a big, big deal for consumer electronics--they're a huge contributor to choked landfills and many of their materials are harmful to both human recyclers (often in third-world countries without strict safety and health controls) as well as the environment.
Ann, while this is an interesting development, at least one of the applications you mention does not really need many of these properties. In the electronics world, longevity is not important. I have a ton (perhaps) of stuff which is mostly old electronics that are not very old, but are unusable. The issue is that the cost/performance of new electronics makes older ones functionally obsolete very quickly. Longevity and self repair are not really assets.
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.
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