So what does it mean to claim a plastic is environmentally friendly? It might mean the material contains recycled plastics or can be easily recycled at the end of its first life. Or it might involve biodegradability. It could also mean the material is derived from feedstocks based on sustainable — agricultural or biological — sources. Plastics suppliers are increasingly pursuing one or more of these environmental strategies as they develop new products. But they have to maintain good mechanical properties and low costs if these eco-friendly polymers are ever to be widely specified by engineers. Three of the newest eco-friendly thermoplastics have properties much like conventional polybutylene-terephthalate (PBT) and just might pass muster with both engineers and environmentalists alike.
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The new composites manufacturing innovation center is intended to be a source of grand challenges for industry, like the kind that got us to the moon under JFK. These aren't the words its new CEO Craig Blue used, but that's the idea and the vision behind the Institute for Advanced Composites Manufacturing Innovation (IACMI).
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