The fastest growing category in polymer compounds probably is “environmentally friendly.” That term can mean almost anything, however. Plastics that contain recycled content probably fit the definition, but often are not of great use to design engineers because of their compromised property values. More interesting are plastics made from renewable resources, such as corn or soy. Increasingly, some of these plastics can be used for injection molding and sometimes even for engineering applications. Another big environmental story line are plastics that meet new guidelines for flame retardancy.
Functional fluids, polymer intermediates
Functional fluids, polymer intermediates
Biobased Carbon Content
ADDITIVE-FREE FLAME-RETARDANT PLASTIC
Scientists at the University of Massachusetts Amherst are developing a synthetic polymer that is inherently flame retardant. The new polymer wouldn't need the flame-retardant chemicals added to many plastics before they can be used in bus seats, airplanes, textiles and countless household items. Some of these additives have been showing up in dust in homes and offices, fish, fat cells and breast milk, raising concern they pose a risk to human health and the environment. The state of Washington banned a class of flame-retardants from use in household items from mattresses to computers — the first state to do so. The new UMass material uses bishydroxydeoxybenzoin or BHDB as a building block, which releases water vapor when it breaks down in a fire, rather than hazardous gasses. Officials at the Federal Aviation Administration and the U.S. Army are keeping a close eye on the material, but it isn't close to commercialization.
DuPont Cerenol is a family of renewably sourced, high-performance polyols (polyetherdiols) that can replace petroleum-based ingredients or finished products without compromising functionality. It offers value-added properties and can increase process efficiencies for a broad range of products in diverse markets including personal care, functional fluids and high-performance elastomers. DuPont says Cerenol can be easily tailored to meet specific needs and performs better in many end uses while providing environmental benefits. Cerenol will be the building block for two other renewably sourced products from DuPont, including Hytrel thermoplastic elastomers made with Cerenol, which will be available late this year.
PLASTIC GROWN IN PLANTS
Mirel is a new natural plastic produced from renewable resources such as corn sugar that will biodegrade in soil, compost, rivers and oceans. It can be used as an alternative to petroleum-based plastic in a wide variety of conversion processes, including injection molding, paper coating, cast film and sheet, blown film and thermoforming. Metabolix, one of its developers, is working with more than 40 prospective customers on more than 60 applications, including consumer products, packaging, single-use disposables and products used in agriculture and erosion control. One of the first commercial applications is a molded stake used to hold sod in place. Natural plastics are produced in specific plant tissues, such as seeds or leaves, directly by photosynthesis using carbon dioxide and water as the raw materials.
New versions of BASF's Ecovio line are both compostable and designed for either injection molding or thermoforming. These combinations are becoming more common for the single-use bioplastics used in food service and food packaging applications, but are still not widely available.
For industrial control applications, or even a simple assembly line, that machine can go almost 24/7 without a break. But what happens when the task is a little more complex? That’s where the “smart” machine would come in. The smart machine is one that has some simple (or complex in some cases) processing capability to be able to adapt to changing conditions. Such machines are suited for a host of applications, including automotive, aerospace, defense, medical, computers and electronics, telecommunications, consumer goods, and so on. This radio show will show what’s possible with smart machines, and what tradeoffs need to be made to implement such a solution.