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Plastics

A Mexican startup Ak Inovex has developed a new method of recycling plastic that does away with water and only consumes half the energy of previous systems. At the same time, it produces plastic pellets of equal or better quality,  resulting in an environmentally friendlier process that also promises to be significantly cheaper. Read More

When the sap from plants such as sugar cane is extracted for commercial use, what's left over is a fibrous material known as bagasse. This is commonly used as biofuel, or is compressed into a wood substitute. Now, Mexican startup Plastinova is using agave bagasse from the tequila industry to make a wood-like material of its own, although it's also incorporating recycled plastic. Read More

If you've ever had to separate different types of plastic for recycling, then you'll know how much it slows down the recycling process. Now, imagine how much harder it is for staff receiving huge amounts of unsorted plastic at municipal recycling plants. New technology developed at Ludwig Maximilians Universitat in Munich, however, identifies plastic types automatically. Read More

The chemical tree got a bit of a shake this week with scientists at IBM announcing the discovery of the first new class of polymer materials in decades. Discovered using a combination of lab experiments and computer modelling, the new plastics have properties that could potentially have a huge impact in manufacturing, transportation, aerospace, and micro electronics. Read More
Dropping your mobile phone can ruin your whole day as you look down at the spiderweb of cracks surrounding a small hole in the once-pristine plastic case. Now imagine watching as those cracks and that hole seal up by themselves, leaving behind a completely healed case. That may sound like science fiction, but it may not be for long with a team of researchers at the University of Illinois having developed a new system that doesn't just repair minor cracks in plastic, but regenerates to heal large holes. Read More
"What would the first pedal cycle have looked like if its 19th-century pioneers had enjoyed access to today's advanced materials?" That's the question German chemical and plastics company BASF seeks to answer with the Concept 1865 bicycle, which updates a 19th century penny-farthing bicycle design with a near full-plastic build and an electric motor. Read More
Petroleum-based plastic may be fantastic, but due to the durability that makes the material so popular it may take hundreds of years to break down. Plastic made from renewable biomass, known as bioplastic, is a biodegradable alternative to fossil fuel versions. A company called Metabolix, based in Cambridge (MA), has been working on a technology to genetically engineer plants such as switchgrass to create a biodegradable polymer that can be extracted directly from the plant. Read More
Desktop 3D printers have hit price-points that make them as affordable as color laser printers. But they also share the same problem – replacing the printing medium costs an arm and a leg. A kilogram of plastic filament costs about US$50, meaning the cost of turning your ideas into reality can quickly add up. But now the Filabot, a miniature plastic recycling plant, will provide a wide variety of plastic filaments from scrap. Read More
What do hemp, mushrooms, milk and straw have in common? They’re just a few of the things that have been used to create “green” composite materials, in which most or all of the usual petroleum by-products are replaced by more environmentally-friendly substances. Now, thanks to two separate studies, it looks like peat and beets can be added to that list. Read More
It's reckoned that most of the 22 million tons of rubber that is processed every year worldwide goes into making vehicle tires and that once rubber products reach the end of their useful lives, for the most part they end up being incinerated. Even when the rubber residues are reclaimed and re-used to make new products, the lack of techniques for producing high-quality materials means that the recyclables are relegated to secondary products such as arena or playground floor coverings or padded doormats. Looking for new ways to optimize the recycling of rubber waste, researchers have developed a material called EPMT that has the desired material properties and characteristics for use in the manufacture of high quality products such as wheel and splashguard covers, handles, knobs and steerable casters. Read More
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