Newsflash

The drive for lightweight materials to reduce overall cost and environmental impact for automotive manufacturers is nothing new.  Fuel economy attracts car buyers too. That is how majority of steel parts have been replaced in F-150 pickup truck by aluminum parts, reducing overall weight over 500 pounds. Then there are alloys, carbon fiber and plastics composites.The ambition for lighter vehicles did not stop with alloys (magnesium, aluminum), and/or composites (glass, carbon fibers).  Recently, Japanese researchers at Kyoto University led by Professor Hiroaki Yano along with its industrial partners (Denso Corporation and Daikyo-Nishikawa Corporation) reported that they were developing cellulose nanofiber based materials for automotive as well as aircraft parts to reduce environmental footprint while increasing product performance.Inevitable questions are: 1) would these materials be cost effective? 2) What would be the service life of these products compared to the current ones? 3) How about the parts’ safety in situations like crash or fire?A final question that an automaker has to ask is: what would be the pay back time to replace current production line (machinery) to CNF based plastics line?Reference: https://www.japantimes.co.jp/news/2017/08/15/business/researchers-japan-use-wood-make-cellulose-nanofiber-auto-parts-stronger-lighter-metal/#.WbAIKeTXuUm...
We know polycarbonates mostly from its use in plastics water bottles, safety goggles, smart phones, structural panels (glazing) and the list goes on.  A quick look at Wikipedia gives a spectrum of applications.However, polycarbonates have its weaknesses along with the BPA (bis-phenol) controversy. Polymers such as polysulfates and polysulfonates have similar if not better mechanical properties than polycarbonates.  The issue has been how reliably scale-up the manufacturing process of polysulfates and polysulfonates?“Click chemistry” is a concept in organic chemistry by which highly reactive reactions provide high yielding products and require little to no purification.  The concept was introduced by Nobel Prize winner Professor K. Barry Sharpless in 2001.A recent work published in Nature Chemistry, by a team of researchers from The Scripps Research Institute (La Jolla), Lawrence Berkley National Laboratory (Berkley), California and Shanghai Institute of Organic Chemistry & Soochow University, China claimed that reduced cost of catalyst, product purity, and by-product recycling make their work ready to move from laboratory research to industrial process.Chemists are at work indeed!References:https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/PolycarbonateK. Barry Sharpless et al; Nature Chemistry, 2017 DOI: 10.1038/nchem.2796...
In a recent The Atlantic interview Bill Gates made a wish on an energy miracle, “Here’s a source of energy that is cheaper than your coal plants, and by the way, from a global-pollution and local-pollution point of view, it’s also better”.  The race is on to find that source. One such energy source is solar energy. We all know that solar energy can be harnessed to generate thermal energy or electrical energy for use in the residential and/or in the commercial applications.  Any material that can store Solar Thermal Energy is called Solar Thermal Fuel (STF).  The quest to harvest solar energy, store the same and use it when needed has been the focus of research in industry and academia alike. For the first time, Professor Grossman’s team at MIT, Cambridge (USA) has come up with a new approach which uses polymer Solar Thermal Fuel (STF) storage platform utilizing STF in its solid-state.  According to the published article, researchers stated, “Closed cycle systems offer an opportunity for solar energy harvesting and storage all within the same material. This approach enables uniform films capable of appreciable heat storage of up to 30 Wh kg?1 and that can withstand temperature of up to 180 °C.”How the STF process works?Certain molecules (chemicals) can have 2 different stable structural forms. These structures are called conformations.  When original molecular conformation is exposed to sunlight, the molecule gets charged and the original conformation changes to the other and stay in that charged conformation for a long period.  The charged molecule snaps back to their original shape (conformation), when triggered by a very specific temperature or other stimulus generating heat in the process. Currently, developed polymeric film can release heat about 10 degree C above the surrounding temperature. Film property improvements are underway. German auto company BMW, has sponsored this research. Where the potential application lies - your guess is as good as mine.References:The Atlantic, p 56, November 2015Zhitomirsky, D., Cho, E. and Grossman, J. C. (2015), Solid-State Solar Thermal Fuels for Heat Release Applications. Adv. Energy Mater., 1502006. doi:10.1002/aenm.201502006...
In a recent The Atlantic interview Bill Gates made a wish on an energy miracle, “Here’s a source of energy that is cheaper than your coal plants, and by the way, from a global-pollution and local-pollution point of view, it’s also better”.  The race is on to find that source. One such energy source is solar energy. We all know that solar energy can be harnessed to generate thermal energy or electrical energy for use in the residential and/or in the commercial applications.  Any material that can store Solar Thermal Energy is called Solar Thermal Fuel (STF).  The quest to harvest solar energy, store the same and use it when needed has been the focus of research in industry and academia alike. For the first time, Professor Grossman’s team at MIT, Cambridge (USA) has come up with a new approach which uses polymer Solar Thermal Fuel (STF) storage platform utilizing STF in its solid-state.  According to the published article, researchers stated, “Closed cycle systems offer an opportunity for solar energy harvesting and storage all within the same material. This approach enables uniform films capable of appreciable heat storage of up to 30 Wh kg?1 and that can withstand temperature of up to 180 °C.”How the STF process works?Certain molecules (chemicals) can have 2 different stable structural forms. These structures are called conformations.  When original molecular conformation is exposed to sunlight, the molecule gets charged and the original conformation changes to the other and stay in that charged conformation for a long period.  The charged molecule snaps back to their original shape (conformation), when triggered by a very specific temperature or other stimulus generating heat in the process. Currently, developed polymeric film can release heat about 10 degree C above the surrounding temperature. Film property improvements are underway. German auto company BMW, has sponsored this research. Where the potential application lies - your guess is as good as mine.References:The Atlantic, p 56, November 2015Zhitomirsky, D., Cho, E. and Grossman, J. C. (2015), Solid-State Solar Thermal Fuels for Heat Release Applications. Adv. Energy Mater., 1502006. doi:10.1002/aenm.201502006...
Reliable and high performance lithium ion batteries commonly known as LIBS are highly sought after product by industries. We all have heard stories about laptops, electric vehicles, airplanes catching fires due to LIBS. Underlying problem is the battery overheating. Preventing batteries from overheating is crucial to the public safety.  Now a team of researchers at Stanford University designed a thermo-responsive (heat sensitive) plastic composite film made from polyethylene and spiky nickel microparticles coated with graphene which shuts down the battery if the temperature is too high.         In a recently published work led by Yi Cui and Zhenan Bao of Stanford University, USA concluded “Safe batteries with this thermoresponsive polymer switching (TRPS) materials show excellent battery performance at normal temperature and shut down rapidly under abnormal conditions, such as overheating and shorting.” How practical this design approach is? Time will tell.References: Y. Cui, Z. Bao et al Nature Energy vol.1, Article number: 15009 (2016); DOI: 10.1038/nenergy.2015.9Chemical & Engineering News, Page 7, January 18, 2016...
In aviation industry, the focus is how to improve fuel safety and handling. Mike Jaffe and Sahitya Allam gave their perspective on safer fuels by integrating polymer theory into design (Science, 350, No. 6256, p. 32, 2015).Mist (generated from the fuel) is much more flammable than the liquid and that is why anti-misting kerosene interferes with mist formation when a low percentage of a polymer is added into it.  The problem however, is that the polymer chain undergoes scission during handling and can’t assist in suppressing mist formation. The answer comes from a recent paper published in the Journal Science by Professor Julia Kornfield and her cross-functional team at Caltech, Pasadena, USA. The group designed a megasupramolecules having polycyclooctadiene backbones and acid or amine end groups (telechelic polymer) which is short enough to resist hydrodynamic chain scission while protecting covalent bonds through reversible linkages. Yes, polymers can be designed to suit our societal needs including aviation fuel safety.Reference: M-H Wei, B. Li, R.L. Ameri David, S.C. Jones, V. Sarohia, J.A. Schmitigal and J.A. Kornfield; Science, 350, (6256), pp. 72-75 (2015)...
At the TED conference, Carbon3D, a Vancouver based company touted a radical 3D printing technology and named it CLIP or Continuous Liquid Interface Product. CLIP grows parts instead of printing them layer by layer. It harnesses light and oxygen to continuously grow objects from a pool of resin.  The result: make commercial quality parts at game-changing speed.  CLIP is 25 to 100 times faster than traditional 3D printing technique.  To make the point, Carbon3D web site provides a head-to-head comparison of CLIP to Polyjet, SLS and SLA.[Press release: March 16, 2015, Vancouver, Canada.  www.carbon3D.com]...
Self-healing plastics has been around for a while. Applications include self-healing medical implants, self-repairing materials for use in airplanes and spacecrafts. Even scientists have made polymeric materials that can repair itself multiple times. A recent report in Science describes a significant advance in self-healing plastics. The authors describe a product that mimics how blood can clot to heal a wound. When the plastic is damaged a pair of pre-polymers in channels combines and rapidly forms a gel, which then hardens over 3 hours.The authors demonstrated that holes up to 8 millimeters wide can be repaired. The repaired parts can absorb 62% of the total energy absorbed by undamaged parts.  Science never stops.Reference:S. R. White, J. S. Moore, N. R. Sottos, B. P. Krull, W. A. Santa Cruz, R. C. R. Gergely; Science, Restoration of Large Damage Volumes in Polymers, Vol. 344 no. 6184 pp. 620-623; (9 May 2014). ...
Knowingly or unknowingly, flexible electronics has become a part of our daily life.  Transparent conductive films (TCFs) are used in mobile phones, tablets, laptops and displays.  Currently, Indium Tin Oxide or commonly known as ITO is the material of choice.  But use of ITO has some major disadvantages and these are brittleness, higher conductivity at greater transparency, and supply of Indium.  This is where non-ITO materials come into play. Based in St. Paul, Minnesota (USA), Cima NaoTech’s uses its SANTETM nanoparticle technology, a silver nanoparticle conductive coating which self-assembles into a random mesh like network when coated onto a flexible substrate such as PET and PC.  According to a recent press release, the company stated SANTETM nanoparticle technology enabled transparent conductors in a multitude markets from large format multi-touch displays to capacitive sensors, transparent and mouldable EMI shielding, transparent heaters, antennas, OLED lighting, electrochromic and other flexible applications.  Cima NanoTech is working with Silicon Integrated Systems Corp. (SIS) of Taiwan and using its highly conductive SANTE FS200TM touch films to develop large format touch screens.References: Press release, San Diego, June 03, 2014; www.cimananotech.com ; http://www.cimananotech.com/sante-technology ; http://www.sis.com/...
In an article appeared today (January 29, 2014) in The Guardian newspaper, Stuart Dredge wrote, “From jet parts to unborn babies, icebergs to crime scenes, dolls to houses: how new technology is shaking up making things”1. Mr. Dredge was speaking about 3D printing technology.  The heart of this technology is the 3D printer itself. Stratasys, a company headquartered in Minneapolis, USA is the manufacturer of 3D printers.  It recently announced the launch of Color Multi-material 3D Printer, the first and only 3D printer to combine colors with multi-material 3D printing.  According to the press release2, by using cyan, magenta, and yellow, multi-material objects can be printed in hundreds of colors.  The technology is based on proven Connex technology.  While the base materials are plastics and elastomers, they can be combined and treated to make finished products of wide ranging flexibility and rigidity, transparency and opacity.  Designers, engineers and manufacturers can create models, mold, and parts that match the characteristics of the finished production part. This includes achieving excellent mechanical properties.  According to the manufacturer, print job in the newly revealed printer can run with about 30 kg of resin per cycle and prints as fine as 16 micron layers for models.  No wonder why some call the new Color Multi-material 3D printer a groundbreaking stuff.References: 1. www.theguardian.com.technology/2014/jan/29/3d-printing-limbs-cars-selfies (January 29, 2014)2. http://investors.stratasys.com/releasedetail.cfm?ReleaseID=821134 (August 3, 2014)...
Instead of stitches or skin staples, doctors use skin glue to close wounds. The glue joinsthe edges of a wound together while the wounds heal underneath. Most of the timeskin glue is used for simple cuts or wounds. According to the paper published inScience Translational Medicine, there are no clinically approved surgical glues thatare non-toxic, bind strongly to tissue, and work well in wet and highly dynamicenvironments within the body. This is the reason why this published work is promisingwhere infants born with heart defects would benefit tremendously. Researchers at the Brigham and Women’s hospital in Boston have engineered ‘bio-inspired’ gluethat can bind strongly to tissues on demand, and work well in the presence ofactively contracting tissues and blood flow. The authors of the paper show howthe glue can effectively be used to repair defects of the heart and blood vessels during minimally invasive procedures. [References: P. J. del Nido et al; Sci. Transl. Med., DOI: 10.1126/scitranslmed.3006557; See also, www.geckobiomedical.com/news/gecko-biomedicals-co-founde.html]...
Stability of organic electronics in water is a major research challenge. For this reason,organic electronics has yet to see any sensing application in aqueous environment.However, as understanding of underlying mechanism of stability aspect is becomingclearer, new developmental efforts to make water compatible organic polymer devicesare taking place. Recently, Professor Zhenan Bao’s group in the department of chemical engineering at Stanforduniversity revealed in a paper published in the journal of Nature Communications thatsolution- processable organic polymer could be stable under both in freshwater andin seawater. Developed organic field-effect transistor sensor is able to detect mercury ionsin the marine environment (high salt environment). Researchers believe that the work hasthe potential to develop inexpensive, ink-jet printed, and large-scale environmental monitoring devices. [References: O. Knopfmacher, M.L. Hammock, A.L. Appleton, G. Schwartz, J. Mei, T. Lei, J. Pei,and Z. Bao; Nature Communications, 5, 2954, January 6, 2014; DOI: 10.1038/ncomms3954]...
Insulin, the wonder medicine for diabetes was discovered about a century ago.Since insulin does not get into the blood stream easily, diabetes patients oftenhave injected themselves with insulin. Now a group of scientists led by Dr. Sanyog Jainat the Center for Pharmaceutical Nanotechnology of National Institute of Pharmaceutical Education and Research in Punjab, India has designed a polymerbased package for oral insulin administration. The package design addresses two major obstacles, 1) digestive enzymes must notdegrade insulin prior to its action and 2) the insulin gets into the blood stream.The package contained folic acid functionalized insulin loaded in liposomes.To protect the liposomes (lipids or fat molecules) they were alternately coated withnegatively charged polyacrylic acid (PAA), and positively charged poly allylamine hydrochloride. Studies were conducted to compare the efficacy of bothdelivery systems: designed polyelectrolyte based insulin and standard insulinsolution. Effects of oral administration lasted longer than that of injectedinsulin, authors reported in a recent article in Biomacromolecules. [Reference: A.K. Agarwal, H. Harde, K. Thanki, and S. Jain; Biomacrmolecules, Nov. 27, 2013;DOI: 10.1021/bm401580k]...
Research in the area of stretchable electronics is heating up!  Thanks to polymers. Led by Professor George M. Whitesides of Harvard University (USA), a team of researchers have demonstrated in a recently published paper in Science that ionic conductors can be used in devices requiring voltages and frequencies much higher than commonly associated with devices using ionic conductors.  The team showed for the first time that electrical charges carried by ions and not electrons, can be utilized in fast-moving, high voltage devices.As a proof of concept, the authors of the study built a transparent loudspeaker that produces sound across the full audible range i.e., 20 Hz to 20 kHz.  Components [such as VHB 4910 tape (acrylic tape with PE liner), polyacrylamide hydrogel containing NaCl electrolyte] used for the high speed, transparent actuators are described in the paper.Tissues and cells are soft and require stretchable conductors for biological systems. Many hydrogels are biocompatible which makes this work particularly an important one. The design of gel-based ionic conductors is highly stretchable, completely transparent and offer new opportunities for designers of soft machines.   [Reference: C.Keplinger, J-Y. Sun, C.C. Foo, P. Rothemund, G.M. Whitesides, and Z. Suo; Science, 341 (6149), pp. 984-987 (2013); DOI: 10.1126/science.1240228]...
Interweaving biological tissue with functional electronics, one can make bionic ears.  NASA has tested 3D-printed rocket engine part.  Then why not 3D print yourself?Well, Twinkind, a German start-up company is now offering enthusiasts statues of themselves for display.  How this works?  A full body scanner takes an image of the customer’s body, transfers the file to the printer after which 3D printer laser sinters a composite powder layer by layer into the customer image.Can we dare to say that Madame Tussauds wax figure of Voltaire can now be 3D printed in polymers soon!  [Reference: www.twinkind.com ]...
Polymer membranes have become a leading contender in numerous separation processes.  Be it in gas (air, hydrogen etc.) or be it in water purifications (salinated water, waste water etc.).  Not only polymer membrane technology helps reducing the environmental impact but also it is cost-effective.  Fracking in shell gas is one of many examples. New advances in drilling technology (such as horizontal drilling) have led to new hydraulic fractures called fracking.  Hydraulic fracturing requires about 2.5 to 5 million gallons of water per well.  Water management and its disposal are major costs for producers.One major challenge, however, of the membrane technology is the fouling (damage caused by contaminants) mitigation.  This has been recently studied by a group of researchers from University of Texas at Austin led by Professor Benny Freeman to address efficiency and reuse of water for fracking in shale gas plays.Researchers modified polydopamine coated UF (ultrafiltration) module by grafting polyethylene glycol brushes onto it.  The result is more hydrophilic surfaces which in turn improved cleaning efficiency relative to unmodified modules. The coating improves the membrane life, and can easily be applied to membrane surface by rinsing it through the recycling system.[References: D.J. Miller, X. Huang, H. Li, S. Kasemset, A. Lee, D. Agnihotri, T. Hayes, D.R. Paul, and B. Freeman; J. Membrane Sci., 437, pp. 265-275 (2013); Also see www.advancedhydro.net ]...
Flexible electronics can change the way we use electronic devices.  It is a term used for assembling electronic circuits by mounting electronic devices on a flexible plastic. A recent review article captured the advancement of CNT and graphene based flexible thin film transistors from material preparation, device fabrication to transistor performance control compared to traditional rigid silicon1. Silicon is used almost exclusively in electronic devices.Now Prof. Ali Javey led a team at the University of California, Berkley to develop a printing process to make nanotube transistors at room temperature with gravure printer.  The plastics used is polyethylene terephthalate (PET). The device exhibited excellent performance with mobility and on/off current ratio of up to ~9 cm2/ (V s) and 105 respectively.  Also, maximum bendability is observed.  The paper authors conclude that this high-throughput printing process serves as enabling nanomanufacturing scheme for range of large-area electronic applications based on nanotube networks2. References:1. D-M. Sun, C. Liu, W-C. Ren and H-M Cheng; Small, DOI: 10.1002/smll.2012031542. P.H. Lau, K. Takei, C. Wang, Y. Zu, J. Kim, Z. Yu, T. Takahashi, G. Cho, and Ali Javey; Nano Letters, 13 (8), pp. 3864-3869 (2013); DOI. 10.1021/nl401934a...
Drinking coffee from paper cups are as common as drinking water from plastics bottle. The issue however, is recycling of disposable cups. The disposable cups are made up of 90-95% of high strength paper (fibers) with a 5% thin coating of plastic (PE).To address the recycling issue, James Cropper Speciality Papers of UK have developed a process which involves softening the cup waste, and separating the plastic coating from the fiber.  After skimming off the plastic, remains are pulverised and recycled, leaving water and pulp behind.  According to the company news release, the high grade pulp is reused in luxury papers and packaging materials.An innovative approach to address a common problem.[Reference: www.jamescropper.com/news ]...
A search for an alternative to rigid silicon wafers gave birth to the area of flexible or bendable electronics. Research has been intense for the past few years in the area flexible electronics as it opens up multitude of new applications. Polymers play an important role to exciting field of flexible electronics.In a recent research report, a team of scientist led by Prof. Ali Javey of University of California, Berkeley (USA)  has shown for the first time user-interactive electronic skin or e-skin can conformally wrap irregular surfaces and spatially map and quantify various stimuli through a built-in active matrix OLED display.  Three electronic components namely thin film transistor (uniform carbon nanotube based), pressure sensor, and OLED arrays (red, green, and blue) are integrated over a plastic substrate.  Spin coated and cured polyimide on a silicon wafer is used as the flexible substrate.  Details are in the paper.This work essentially provides a technology platform where integration of several components (organic and inorganic) can be done at a system level on plastic substrates. According to the paper, this e-skin technology could find applications in interactive input/control devices, smart wallpapers, robotics, and medical/health monitoring devices.    [Ref: C. Wang, D. Hwang, Z. Yu, K. Takei, J. Park, T. Chen, B. Ma, and Ali Javey; Nature Materials, Published online July 21, 2013; DOI: 10.1038/NMAT3711]...
Recent buzz in the technology world is 3D printing.  Researchers to designers are creating new products everyday using 3D printing technology.  Even eBay has unveiled its services to those looking to make their own creations using 3D printing App.Since ages composites have played a crucial role in our society. Inspired by natural (biological) composites such as bone or nacreous abalone shell, researchers from MIT (USA) and Stratasys have developed composite materials that have fracture behaviour similar to bones.  Using computer model with soft and stiff polymers, the team has come up with a specific topological arrangements (hierarchical structures) of polymer phases to boost the mechanical behaviour in the composites.Interestingly, the team has been able to manufacture (thanks to 3D printing) a composite material that is more than 20 times larger than its strongest constituent.  The referenced paper showed that one can use computer model to design composite materials of their choice, tailor the fracture pattern and then use 3D printing technology to manufacture the composites.[Ref: L.S. Dimas, G.H. Bratzel, I. Eylon, and M.J. Buehler; Advanced Functional Materials, Published online June 17, 2013; DOI: 10.1002/adfm.201300215]...

nanophase_figure9A lot has changed in the plastics additive segments in the last few years. The need for product differentiation is the primary driving force behind the wealth of new additives those are being incorporated in the plastics products.  These additives are tailor-made systems to meet ever changing applications of plastics. The plastics additives global market of $46.3 B by year end 2014 has been growing at a CAGR (Compound Annual Growth Rate) of 4.5% over the last five years. Property modifiers have the largest share of the market, worth an estimated $22.8B by year end 2014. New market development is growing rapidly in Asia and likely to do so in coming years.

In his final part of the article, Dr. Rosato reviews some of the latest developments in additives and describes how these additives nanotubes to glass fiber could change future of plastic products.

Flame Retardant Filled Halloysite Nanotubes

To replace halogenated flame retardants, nanotechnology comes into play. NaturalNano Inc., a developer of advanced nanomaterials and additive technologies based on halloysite clay nanotubes, is developing a range of products with extended release properties including flame retardants for furniture applications based on its family of Pleximer products. The nanotubes, with their hollow structure, can be filled with additives to create a slow or extended release of the additive concentrate. For FR naturenano_figure10applications, the company believes it can develop flame-retardant compounds that would release only under extreme heat conditions. NaturalNano believes that commercializing Pleximer with extended release capabilities is not only the next step in expanding their product offerings, but also is an important next stage in the evolutionary development of nanocomposites.

Flame Retardant Phosphonate Polymers

FRX Polymers has commercialized its proprietary phosphorous-derived inherently flame retardant polymer as an answer to concerns regarding halogen-based flame retardants. The company which holds 35+ patents and patent applications is developing entirely new polymers based on phosphonate. Its polyphosphonates are being commercialized as a homopolymer (FRX100) and polyphosphonate/polycarbonate block copolymers FRXCO25, FRXCO35, and FRXCO85 with 25%, 35%, and 85% polyphosphonate content respectively. With its high phosphorus content (10.8%) polyphosphonate homopolymers offer the highest limiting oxygen index (LOI) of all known thermoplastics. FRX 100 is being marketed as a halogen free flame retardant for use with other resins. In comparison with typical FR additives, it has the advantage of not affecting host resin mechanical properties. In terms of flame retardant performance the material has achieved a UL V0 rating at 0.75mm with full transparency and a glow-wire test rating of 825ºC.frx_figure11

The clear, tough, and inherently very flame-retardant engineering resins have some similarities to polycarbonate. The glass transition for the neat homopolymer is 107ºC and 135 ºC as a 65/35 polycarbonate/polyphosphonate copolymer which is comparable to pure polycarbonate’s 147 ºC. FRX copolymers are moldable or extrudable thermoplastics which depending on copolymer ratio have higher melt flow and flame resistance than polycarbonate but lower heat and impact resistance.

Polymer Reinforcement

S-1 Glass, Higher Performance at Lower Cost

AGY Holdings Corporation recently introduced its trademarked S-1 Glass high performance rovings for use in long-fiber reinforced thermoplastics. Designed for use with a range of resins including polycarbonate (PC), polyetherimide (PEI), polybutylene terephthalate (PBT) and nylon (PA 6/6), S-1 Glass was created to bridge the cost–performance gap between E-Glass and higher performance S-2 Glass fibers. Intended for industrial applications, such as compressed natural gas (CNG) storage, wind energy, and military armor end uses, these glass fibers achieve desired levels of mechanical properties in reinforced thermoplastics at much lower levels of glass fiber than E-Glass, providing better processing with higher impact performance. Compared to traditional E-glass, the S-1 Glass has higher hydrolytic stability, a 30 to 45% improvement in tensile properties and an 18 to 25% improvement in tensile modulus. It has been demonstrated that an LFT (long fiber thermoplastic) with 32% S-1 Glass fiber content can deliver the same performance as a 60% E-glass filled product. The lower fiber content provides higher impact, better aesthetics and easier processing.
S-1 Glass roving has received approval for use in thermoset epoxy based wind turbine blade applications by Germanischer Lloyd, a classification society based in Germany that is the foremost international certification body in the wind energy sector. The product’s better performance/cost balance allows manufacturers to optimize wind blade design to lower blade weight, or extend blade length without increasing weight.


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Weight Reducing Stiffness/Impact Modifier

Milliken Chemical’s Hyperform 803 is an inorganic fibrous mineral designed to deliver an outstanding balance of impact strength and stiffness while reducing weight by up to 15% versus traditional mineral filled systems. The material offers comparable performance at lower weight versus competing mineral additives such as talc.milliken_figure13

While weight had customarily been reduced by replacing metal with high performance or engineering plastics, advances in resin, additive and process developments have bridged the gap between polyolefins and engineering resins. Glass reinforcements for polyolefins have enabled them to achieve performance similar to more expensive and heavier engineering resins but are known to cause deterioration of the surface properties of the molded parts. Hyperform 803 can produce a surface finish comparable to that of a talc-filled compound allowing polypropylene to be used in automotive applications beyond concealed structural parts. This excellent surface finish versus glass-filled polypropylene allows polypropylene compounds to be used in highly visible bumper and door panel components.


PVC and Sustainability

Alternative Plasticizers–Non Ortho-Phthalate Esters

Lanxess’ phthalate-free Mesamoll/Mesamoll II are not di-isononyl cyclohexanedicarboxylate (DINCH) products that are produced through catalytic hydrogenation of di-isononyl phthalate. DINCH is the most widely used phthalate plasticizer substitute. In the EU, DINCH is not listed in directive 2005/84/EC which bans the use of certain phthalates in toys and childcare articles and thus can be used safely in these products. The main difference between Mesamoll II and Mesamoll is the former's reduced volatility. With growing demand for phthalate-free plasticizer, Lanxess is expanding its Mesamoll family production capacity by 40%. Sales of the Mesamoll product line is growing at an annual rate of roughly 15%. The additional capacity is available at the Krefeld-Uerdingen facility. Mesamoll II received FDA approval for use in products that come in contact with aqueous-based foodstuffs. Mesamoll II has now taken the final step toward gaining European approval for full use in food contact applications. Lanxess expects to receive official approval from the European Commission very shortly. When this is granted, Mesamoll II would be one of the few plasticizers deemed suitable for use in food packaging in both the United States and the EU. However, the benefits aren't limited to just this specific market – the approval will also have a positive effect on the use of Mesamoll II in toys. Products from the Mesamoll range are particularly notable for their good resistance to saponification, outstanding solvating and migration properties, and compatibility with a wide range of polymers such as PVC, rubber and polyurethane.

lanxes_figure14


Phthalate Plasticizers Covalently Bonded to PVC

Researchers at the Institute of Polymer Science & Technology in Madrid are developing technology to prevent potentially harmful plasticizers such as DEHP (DOP) from migrating from PVC. The advance could lead to a new generation of PVC plastics that are potentially safer than those now used in packaging, medical tubing, toys, and other products. The permanent plasticizer effect will also ensure PVC flexibility is maintained with the possibility of extending useful product life. The functionalized plasticizer DOP-SH [di(2-ethylhexyl) 4-mercaptophthalate] was developed with physiochemical properties similar to those of commercial DOP, but with an additional functional group able to establish a covalent bond to the polymeric backbone. madrid_figure15The percentage of plasticizer that could be covalently linked to the PVC backbone was similar to plasticizer amounts usually commercially employed. The approach completely suppressed plasticizer migration. While the plasticizer efficiency of the novel plasticizers is less than conventional DEHP (DOP) the glass transition temperature of modified PVC is largely reduced and is around 0°C for the highest modified samples. This approach may open new ways to prepare flexible PVC with permanent plasticizer effect and zero migration.


Surface Modification

Graphene Loaded Conductive Polymers

Vor-x from the Vorbeck Materials Group, a proprietary form of graphene containing functional groups, is a recent entry into the conductive additives market. The functionalized graphene allows compatibility to be ‘tuned’ to a specific matrix, or specific material properties to be enhanced. Vor-x graphene layers are entirely disassociated, and due to their wrinkled morphology individual sheets do not re-aggregate, ensuring good dispersion/handling, while providing the full performance advantages of graphene. Compounding Vor-x masterbatches into plastics is said to be much less difficult than CNT masterbatch material. The robust filler can take the high shear forces of a twin-screw extruder or mixer. Vorbeck has developed masterbatches in a wide range of thermoplastics, from polyolefins to PEEK. Vor-x is said to yield conductivities ‘well beyond surface anti-static and into the conductive regime.’ The material’s surface area can be theoretically as high as around 2,600 m2/g (meters square per gram) and in practice is as high as 1,700 m2/g. Electrical conductivity of natural rubber with 4% Vor-x compared with the same rubber loaded with 40% carbon black. Vorbeck and BASF are jointly developing graphene-based formulations and composite materials for conductive coatings and compounds, especially for the electronics industry.vorbeck_figure16

Silver Based Antimicrobial Elastomer

StatSil elastomer developed by Momentive Performance Materials incorporates a silver-based antimicrobial additive into the base silicone elastomer using patent pending technology to provide antimicrobial protection. The product line offers excellent design flexibility. These antimicrobial elastomers are particularly suited to applications where controlling the growth of microbes in or on the human body is of concern in healthcare devices such as urinary catheters and intravenous components. Available as HCR (High Consistency Rubber) and LSR (Liquid Silicone Rubber) products, StatSil elastomers can be custom formulated to meet specific performance/processing requirements. The elastomers are available in hardnesses ranging in durometer from 3 to 80 shore A.

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In Conclusion—Global Plastic Additives Market Drivers

Numerous additives are incorporated into thermoplastics to achieve a specific purpose during fabrication and/or service. Plastics could not deliver their performance without the addition of a broad range of polymer additives. The plastics additives global market of $46.3 B by year end 2014 has been growing at a CAGR (Compound Annual Growth Rate) of 4.5% over the last five years. Property modifiers have the largest share of the market, worth an estimated $22.8B by year end 2014. While overall growth for plastics additives is expected to average about 4% in the three major consuming areas (North America, Europe, Asia) growth is projected to be fastest in China and slightly negative for Japan. Plastics would not work without additives, but with them they are made safer, cleaner, tougher, and more colorful as well as more useful. Additives contribute to variable cost, but also reduce production costs and make products last longer, thereby helping to save money and conserve raw material reserves. Although used at only 5% to 7% in terms of weight or about 10% by cost, they provide immense benefits and have contributed significantly to the achievements of plastics.


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Strongly tied to resins industry growth, demand for additives is also driven by unique performance and plastic product property requirements of the end-use consumer segments, particularly automotive, packaging, construction, medical, and consumer electronics. Specialty additives are one of the most dynamic segments of the plastics industry. These unique additives play a role in product development, reducing environmental impact, and gaining a competitive edge.

Advanced Plastic Additive Solution Suppliers

Company                                        Trade name                          Website

ScentSational Technologies, LLC    CompelAroma                    www.scentsationaltechnologies.com
Clariant Masterbatch                       CESA-Natura                     www.clariant.masterbatches.com
Sukano Products Ltd.                      Sukano                              www.sukano.com
PolyOne Corporation                       OnCap Bio                         www.polyone.com
Ampacet Corporation                      Ampacet                            www.ampacet.com
Toyota Tsusho                                Bio-PET                              www.taiamerica.com/
NEC                                                 Cardanol                             www.nec.com
NatureWorks LLC                           Ingeo                                   www.natureworksllc.com
Teijin Ltd.                                        Biofront                               www.teijin.com/
Croda Polymer Additives               Solasorb                              www.croda.com
Nanophase Technologies Corp.    NanoArc ATO                     www.nanophase.com
AGY Holdings Corporation            S-1 Glass                            www.agy.com
Milliken Chemical                            Hyperform                          www.hyperformnucleatingagents.com
NaturalNano Inc.                            Pleximer                              www.naturalnano.com
FRX Polymers LLC                        FRX                                      www.frxpolymers.com
Lanxess AG                                 Mesamoll                              lanxess.com/en/corporate/home/
Institute of Polymer Science & Technology                              www.ictp.csic.es/ICTP2/en
Vorbeck Materials Group             Vor-x                                   www.vorbeck.com
Momentive                                   StatSil                                 www.momentive.com

 

Donald V. Rosato, Ph.D.

 

don_figure21  Dr. Donald V. “Don” Rosato of PlastiSource Inc. has been actively involved with plastics, moving from aerospace development to leading resin suppliers from the late ‘60s to early ‘90s, before starting his own 20 year old prototype manufacturing, product development, and technical market advisory firm. He was involved with firsts developing the Apollo 11/12/13 composite moonship legs, America’s Cup/Olympic luge/bobsled parts, PET & recycled PVC bottle manufacturing, barrier packaging, super-tough nylons, engineered plastic blends/alloys, high performance LCPs & related ultra-resins, DARPA/ARPA aerospace/defense/alternative energy electronics, biocomposites/green resins, greenbuilding/LEED end uses, electrically/thermally conductive polymers, specialty additive compounds, TPEs/synthetic rubbers, advanced molding technologies, and clean thermoset resins. He continues into his 6th decade to author/present multiple global webinars, papers and books, analytical reports, and online plastic columns.


Don has wide-ranging technical and marketing plastic industry experience from product development, through production, to marketing, having worked for Northrop Grumman, Owens-Illinois/Graham, DuPont/Conoco, Celanese/Ticona, and Borg Warner/G.E. Plastics. He has developed numerous polymer related patents, participates in many trade groups (SPE, SPI, PIA, CPPIA, SAMPE), and is involved in these areas with PlastiSource, Inc. He earned his BS Chemistry, Boston College; MBA, Northeastern University; M.S. Plastics Engineering, University of Massachusetts Lowell; Ph.D. Business Administration, University of California, Berkeley, and has extensive executive management training.