Last week's Greener Gadgets conference, held in New York City, kept a strong focus on materials used in electronics products and applications. Andrew Dent, vice president of library and materials research at Material Connexion, talked about his company and the state of materials during a panel discussion at the show.
Material Connexion is a materials consultancy based in New York, Cologne, Milan and Bangkok with a library of 4,000 materials in its New York library. “Anybody who needs a material, chances are they’ll want to improve that material and then we can help them find a solution in that respect,” says Dent.
Material Connexion offers to its clients a subscription-based service to its library as well as one-on-one consultancy. Even though Dent and his team are not materials trends forecasters, they do pay attention to universities and national institutes to monitor the next big material.
Bioplastics is one area where they have been focusing, though they see it as a greater solution for packaging rather than component molding based on the reliability of this relatively new material. “There isn’t the volume, there isn’t the price point, and there isn’t the performance yet to give a whole sale change from our existing fossil-fuel plastics to any sort of biopolymer for the majority of electronics components,” says Dent.
Dent also sites nanotechnology and biomimetics as areas to keep an eye on for the near future of materials development. “There’s a limit to how strong steel can be. We’re not going to find a new metal anytime soon that can significantly out-perform steel,” says Dent. “However, you look to nature and you have things like spider silk, which is already outperforming steel in terms of its strength. What we’re understanding now is rather than fighting against nature in the manufacturing of materials, we must be looking more towards it to see how nature has been creating a solution to a problem.”