Plastic and its use on mass causes many problems as we all know. It is not biodegradable, made from oil, difficult to recycle and can be found almost everywhere floating in the sea or buried on land. What we need is something to replace it.
Over the last year researchers at the MMC in Paris have been working on a new material. What they have developed is something that might change the future of manufacturing.
See this short article for a more complete description.
Their material is called a vitrimer, it is organic, strong, lightweight and looks to bridge the gap between thermoplastics and thermoset products.
What this actually means to you and me is a material that is solid but workable across a wide temperature range, so doesn’t melt like plastic, break like glass, can be shaped after production (unlike plastic or other polymers) and easily recycled.
The material can be sculptured without the need for extreme heat, so can be liquefied and moulded and then bent once finished. This makes it an incredibly versatile substance for use in electronics, car manufacturing and many different fields of engineering.
Advantages include the possibility of not using moulds for large structures that produce shapes that cannot be adjusted. If necessary the form required can be made in-situ and manipulated to fit, something that is not possible with steel for example.
The constitution of the materials determines its rigidity, so you can make it like thick rubber with flexibility at room temperature or much more rigid, but it is not brittle and so will not snap.
Given the many problems associated with plastics and the weight issues of using steel, this material looks to offer the promise of a more versatile, easily recyclable, reusable and less polluting alternative, and certain sectors of the scientific community are calling it a wonder material.
One to watch I would say.