3 Advancements in Polymer Technology

Advanced polymers are one of the most exciting technologies in chemistry today. Suitable for a wide range of applications, polymers are literally the building blocks of our lives; they provide support, structure, and durability to thousands of products we interact with each and every day. Advancements in polymer technology have the potential to revolutionize medical treatment, space travel, fuel consumption, and more.

What are the latest breakthroughs in polymers, and how might they affect our lives in 5, 10, or 50 years? Here are three exciting developments to watch.

Biomass-Derived Isoprene
What is it? An isoprene, a key molecule used to produce tires, derived from biomass like trees and grass.

How was it done? Scientists at the Center for Sustainable Polymers and at the University of Minnesota have developed a way to “hybridize” the process of creating biomass-derived isoprene. By fermenting sugars in biological material like grass and leaves at a molecular level, they derive an intermediate known as itaconic acid. From there, the acid is reacted with hydrogen to methyl-THF using Phosphorus Self-Pillared Pentasil, offering a catalytic efficiency of over 90%.

What will change? The auto industry will gain a sustainable alternative to traditional rubber-made tires which require significant usage of fossil fuels to produce and dispose of. From an economic standpoint, tires may eventually be produced domestically from readily-available resources in a more renewable fashion.

Multi-Functional, Self-Healing Hydrogel
What is it? A hydrogel (a water-swollen, 3-D polymer) with intrinsic “self-healing” capabilities as well as additional functionality such as electro conductivity.

How was it done? Scientists at the University of Manitoba have developed a new way to create mechanically stable, conductive polymer hydrogels. A chitosan (DCh-PPy) polymerizes acrylic acid using iron atoms to create a double-network hydrogel; the iron also contributes to exceptional self-healing properties. The new material takes only minutes to “heal” completely when cut, and in addition to providing extreme conductivity, it is flexible and highly pressure-sensitive.

What will change? Self-healing, electro conductive materials have long been seen as the Holy Grail of adhesive medical technology. Industries like construction, digital technology, and aeronautics are also highly interested in self-healing adhesives that crosslink physical and mechanical properties.

Stickier Super Glue
What is it? A non-solvent glue that does not harden as it dries, making it suitable for bonding polymeric and aqueous, elastic materials together.

How was it done? Researchers at the Johannes Kepler University Linz are studying the potential of a new glue made from cyanoacrylates that have been diluted with a non-solvent. When exposed to a surface containing water (such as a hydrogel), the glue becomes “triggered” to polymerize by the water, effectively entangling polymer chains with the attached material.

What will change? If perfected, the new technology could drastically impact implanted devices such as false vertebrae, and even give people patches of “electronic skin” to which devices could be attached.

Every day, advancements emerge in polymer technology providing endless new opportunities for scientific and commercial study. Polymers are the future.

Noah Chemicals is proud to supply researchers, scientists, and organizations with the high-purity chemicals they need to perform complex polymer experiments. How can we help you?

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