Scientists at the State University of New York’s College of Environmental Science and Forestry are developing a way to add wood fiber to plastic to make it stronger. The process extracts nanocrystals of cellulose out of woody materials such as trees and willow shrubs and mixes them with the plastic. The result is a strong, lightweight plastic that will degrade in a landfill.
“By adding an ounce of crystals to a pound of plastic, you can increase the strength of the plastic by a factor of 3,000,” says William Winter, chemistry professor and director of the college’s Cellulose Research Institute. “And in the end, in a landfill, it’s just carbon dioxide and water, which can be taken up and made into more biomass.”
What should be the perception of a product’s real-world performance with regard to the published spec sheet? While it is easy to assume that the product will operate according to spec, what variables should be considered, and is that a designer obligation or a customer responsibility? Or both?
Biomimicry has already found its way into the development of robots and new materials, with researchers studying animals and nature to come up with new innovations. Now thanks to researchers in Boston, biomimicry could even inform the future of electrical networks for next-generation displays.
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