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A research team from Brazil has developed a new form of plant fiber-based plastic that is ...

A research team from Brazil has developed a new form of plant fiber-based plastic that is claimed to be stronger, lighter, and more eco-friendly than plastics currently in use. Team leader Alcides Leão says that some of the so-called nano-cellulose fibers can be almost as stiff as Kevlar, but that the plastic differs from many in widespread use because the source material – such as pineapple and banana – is completely renewable. The researchers say that current production efforts are centered around the manufacture of automotive plastics, but future development could see steel and aluminum being replaced.  Read More

Meat and bone meal (pictured above) has been used to create partially-biodegrable bioplast...

Creepy as it may sound, for decades one of the key ingredients in cattle feed was meat and bone meal (MBM), made from by-products of – you guessed it – slaughtered cattle. Sheep, farmed deer, elk and bison were also unknowingly eating their own kind. With the onset of the Mad Cow Disease scare in 1997, the U.S. and other countries banned the use of MBM-containing feeds, as it was believed that the disease could spread via the ingestion of infected animals' body parts. That ban has resulted in large quantities of MBM simply ending up in landfills. Now, however, scientists are suggesting that it could be used to make green(ish) plastics.  Read More

Researchers have developed a method of laser-welding transparent pieces of plastic to one ...

Laser welding of plastic is quick, precise, and generates little waste, but it does have its limitations. The process involves shining a laser beam through the edge of an upper sheet of plastic and onto the joining edge of a lower sheet, which has had soot particles mixed into it to absorb the radiation – this means that manufacturers are almost always limited to joining transparent plastic to black plastic. Researchers from Germany’s Fraunhofer Institute for Laser Technology, however, have recently developed a method for welding transparent plastics to one another.  Read More

Prof. Andrew Mills with food packaged in his smart plastic (Photo: University of Strathcly...

Given that German scientists have already developed packaging film that kills food-inhabiting bacteria, it only makes sense that Scottish scientists should be developing the next step in the process – food packaging that changes color when the food is going bad. The “intelligent plastic” film, which is being created at Glasgow’s University of Strathclyde, is intended to take the guesswork out of whether or not the food packaged within it is still safe to eat.  Read More

Michael Kessler (left) and former Iowa State doctoral student Will Goertzen use a dynamic ...

Materials that can repair themselves are generally a good thing, as they increase the lifespan of products created from them, and reduce the need for maintenance. Biorenewable polymers are also pretty likable, as they reduce or even eliminate the need for petroleum products in plastic production, replacing them with plant-derived substances. Michael Kessler, an Iowa State University associate professor of materials science and engineering, and an associate of the U.S. Department of Energy’s Ames Laboratory, is now attempting to combine the two.  Read More

The ECO:Shield housing system is suitable for temporary use in disaster areas or for areas...

Each year natural disasters and civil unrest leave hundreds of thousands of people homeless throughout the world. Many of these crises occur in developing nations where traditional building materials are either unavailable or prohibitively expensive, and where the focus is often on staying alive, not maintenance of a home. The ECO:Shield system from Innovative Composites International Inc. (ICI) may present a welcome solution. The earthquake and hurricane resistant houses use recyclable materials and according to ICI, are cheaper than both conventional and other modular constructions. They are energy efficient and durable – resisting moisture, insects, rot and mould. And they can be constructed quickly using unskilled labor: an 8' x 16' (2.4 x 4.9 meters) ECO:Shield house can be assembled in less than 45 minutes with standard tools.  Read More

A plastic part colored using the CO2 impregnation process (Photo: Fraunhofer)

Excess carbon dioxide in the atmosphere has certainly become an environmental concern in recent years, but researchers from Germany’s Fraunhofer Institute for Environmental, Safety and Energy Technology are now experimenting with a process that uses CO2 to process plastic products in an environmentally-friendly fashion. They have discovered that by compressing the gas, it can be used to impregnate plastic objects with dyes, antibacterial compounds, or other substances. Traditionally, toxic solvents have been used for coloring plastic items.  Read More

Scientists have used biosynthetic muscle fibers to observe the changes that polymers exhib...

Scientists tasked with creating better plastic films have been at a loss when it comes to observing how synthetic polymers react under mechanical stress – the polymers are just too small for a microscope to keep track of while being stretched. Now a team of physicists from Technische Universitaet Muenchen (TUM) has come up with a solution. They’re using a muscle filament protein to build polymer networks that can be observed by a microscope, and by doing so have already determined why some polymers get tougher with repeated stress, while others get softer.  Read More

Shredded and densified boom material, post-consumer plastic, and recycled tires are all go...

During the course of this year’s Gulf Oil Spill, a lot of media attention was paid to the oil booms used to contain and/or absorb the surface slick. While a small percentage of the sausage-shaped tubes of netting were stuffed with unusual materials such as hair, most of them contained oil-absorbent polypropylene. Now that the Deep Horizon well has been capped, the question of what to do with all that oily plastic arises. It turns out that some of it will find its way into Chevrolet Volts.  Read More

Scientists are working to make tougher biodegradable plastics from plants (Image: Horia Va...

Replacing petro-chemical-based plastics with plant-based alternatives is a growing area of research. One popular form of plant-derived plastic is Poly(lactic) acid, or PLA, a type of biodegradable plastic that is currently used to make bottles, bags and is woven into fibers to make clothes in place of polyester. Although PLA has similar mechanical properties to PETE polymer, it has significantly lower heat-resistance, which limits its uses. Researchers are now developing a new chemical catalyst to improve the properties of PLA, making it stronger and more heat-resistant so it can be used for a wider range of applications.  Read More

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