Plastic in the News: Plastic is Strong as Steel

New Plastic Is Strong as Steel, TransparentReleased: Wed 03-Oct-2007, Source: University of Michigan By mimicking a brick-and-mortar molecular structure found in seashells,
University of Michigan researchers created a composite plastic that’s as
strong as steel but lighter and transparent. It’s made of layers of clay nanosheets and a water-soluble polymer that shares chemistry with white
glue. Engineering professor Nicholas Kotov almost dubbed it “plastic steel,”
but the new material isn’t quite stretchy enough to earn that name.
Nevertheless, he says its further development could lead to lighter, stronger armor for soldiers or police and their vehicles. It could also be used in
microelectromechanical devices, micro fluidics, biomedical sensors and valves and unmanned aircraft.

It took 300 layers of each the glue-like polymer and the clay nanosheets
to create a piece of this material as thick as a piece of plastic wrap.
The glue-like polymer used in this experiment, which is polyvinyl alcohol,
was as important as the layer-by-layer assembly process. The structure of
the “nanoglue” and the clay nanosheets allowed the layers to form
cooperative hydrogen bonds, which gives rise to what Kotov called “the
Velcro effect.” Such bonds, if broken, can reform easily in a new place.
The Velcro effect is one reason the material is so strong. Another is the
arrangement of the nanosheets. They’re stacked like bricks, in an
alternating pattern.
For more information: http://www.newswise.com/articles/view/533965/

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