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Why Are High-Performance Polymers So Versatile?

MONDAY, MAY 9, 2022

By Emily Newton


Researchers and other professionals who work with polymers and similar materials are always searching for opportunities that improve processes and products. In one recent case, Korean researchers developed a coating that people can apply to surfaces to give them antibacterial and antiviral properties without altering their physical properties.

In particular, significant progress has occurred to increase the viable applications for high-performance polymers. For example, researchers have explored how high-performance polymer nanocomposites could work well for packaging electronics and food. They cited characteristics including the polymers’ antimicrobial characteristics and thermal stability in that research. Here’s a closer look at why high-performance polymers offer such impressive versatility.

Automation Initiatives Support Their Development

Engineering high-performance polymers is an in-depth process. However, some researchers have found it’s easier to discover the best candidates when applying automation to their efforts.

In one example, decision-makers at a German factory had an electric and fully automated injection-molding cell installed to help scientists more efficiently create test specimens. From there, the overall process for creating high-performance polymers could shorten and the researchers could get repeatable results.

iStock.com / Kriengsak Tarari

Researchers and other professionals who work with polymers and similar materials are always searching for opportunities that improve processes and products.

The automation aspect also makes the process much safer for humans. Some of the compounds examined for potential use in future high-performance polymers have melt temperatures of approximately 750 F, with mold temperatures of about 350 F.

The machine helps researchers run tests faster due to the repeatability of the results. Thus, they can learn things about the chemical and mechanical properties of such polymers to determine which are the best options for further investment.

High-Performance Polymers Can Retain Color Vibrancy

When engineering high-performance polymers, the people involved must remain mindful of what potential customers will prioritize as they evaluate those creations. One aspect to consider is whether customers will need high-performance polymers containing pigments. Such coloring could be a purely aesthetic addition, but it could also aid in identifying hazards or allow the color-coding of certain parts.

However, people must understand the chemistry between the colorant and the polymer. It could trigger certain reactions or mean the pigment cannot withstand the high temperatures associated with injection molding. However, engineers can usually safely add 1-2% pigment to a polymer without undesirable effects. That is, if there are no known compatibility issues between the two. However, there is generally an increased likelihood of polymer properties changing as the pigment percentage rises.

Those realities provide opportunities for manufacturers to meet needs with pigmented high-performance polymers. Choosing the proper pigment for the desired application is an essential part of achieving color stability. Manufacturers also test aspects like tint strength and viscosity to ensure purity.

Some companies offer specially formulated pigments for high-performance polymers. Then, hot temperatures used in processing the polymers do not cause color changes. Additionally, some such products have up to 20% higher color strength than comparable items on the market. That characteristic means manufacturers do not need to use as much pigment to get the preferred hue.

Advancements in products like pigments for high-performance polymers give manufacturers more freedom by enabling greater customization capabilities. In turn, these products contribute to the overall versatility of the polymers.

These Polymers Can Align With Sustainability Aims

Another reason for polymers’ versatility relates to how many people use them to make sustainable improvements. The aerospace industry utilizes carbon nano-reinforced polymers to get stronger parts while reducing the craft’s weight. That approach results in components that are 30% lighter and support better fuel efficiency.

Elsewhere, companies have committed to making high-performance polymers with sustainable feedstocks, such as recycled waste plastics. Those involved believe such efforts will reduce the dependence on several thousand tons of fossil feedstock typically used in polymer production.

Another real-life example involved a Swedish company, where engineers invented a process of making high-performance polymers from pulp and other paper industry waste. The initiative relies on membrane filters and biotechnology to extract and modify the biorefinery-sourced hemicellulose lignin from the raw materials and convert it into polymers. It’s then possible to use the polymers in the paper industry again or in sectors ranging from cosmetics to construction.

Some Polymers Have Self-Healing Properties

People are continually interested in creating self-healing polymers. However, there’s often a tradeoff whereby polymers that can repair themselves sometimes have inferior mechanical properties compared to those that cannot.

However, in one instance, researchers created a self-healing polymer that offered a toughness 9.4 times higher than metallic aluminum. It also provided a high stretchability of 1,020.8%. They proposed that their work could pave the way for self-healing polymers that retain excellent mechanical performance.

In another instance, a team made an elastomeric polymer capable of stretching to 14 times its original length. Moreover, when the researchers severed the material, they found it healed itself within five minutes and gained 99% of its original toughness and 97% of its tensile strength in the process.

These examples highlight some of the work that might eventually lead to more types of high-performance polymers that can fix themselves and show only minor performance decreases after the damage occurs.

High-Performance Polymers Can Provide Excellent Flexibility

These examples show why people often choose high-performance polymers for their versatility. As progress continues in this area, professionals and enthusiasts should see even more exciting advancements.

ABOUT THE BLOGGER

Emily Newton

Emily Newton is the Editor-in-Chief of Revolutionized, a magazine exploring innovations in science and industry that shares ideas to promote a better tomorrow. She regularly covers trends in the industrial sector. In addition to her work with Revolutionized, Newton is also a contributing author for loT Times and the International Society of Automation. Newton also provides science and tech insights at BBN Times. For more information please visit connect with Newton on LinkedIn or contact her at https://emilyjnewton.com/.

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Tagged categories: Asia Pacific; Coatings systems; EMEA (Europe, Middle East and Africa); High-performance coatings; Latin America; North America; Pigments; Polymers; Z-Continents; Coating Materials; Coating types; Coatings; Coatings Technology; Protective coatings

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