SPE Library

The SPE Library contains thousands of papers, presentations, journal briefs and recorded webinars from the best minds in the Plastics Industry. Spanning almost two decades, this collection of published research and development work in polymer science and plastics technology is a wealth of knowledge and information for anyone involved in plastics.

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PlasticsTrends, a website focused on trends and technologies in plastics, was founded in 2004 by Prithu Mukhopadhyay, Ph.D. Articles were written by scientists and industry experts. Here you will find an archive of PlasticsTrends articles from 2004-2018.
George Schmitt, November 2007
There was a coin operated facts-testing machine.  It tested the player's knowledge and at three levels: Easy, Medium, or Advanced.  The staff at Brooklyn Poly played the game frequently, and on the afternoon in question, Turner was playing at the Advanced level with Bob Mesrobian, a post-doc from Princeton, and for ten beers.  As they played, Turner noticed that if he stood just so, he could see enough of the answer card to learn it.  He thoughtfully lost the game to Dr. Mesrobian, and consequently owed him ten beers. 
Current Trends
Martin Vines, Ph.D., October 2007
Graphene is the thinnest known material and has the highest intrinsic strength of any material ever measured. We are posting an article to describe some of the interesting research on graphene and graphene-based polymer nanocomposites (GPNC) that is occuring. This article reviews how graphene is made, explain how single sheets can be dispersed in a polymer matrix to give plastics with interesting properties and where these works are being carried out.
The Trends and the Future of Plastics
Prithu Mukhopadhyay, August 2007
Imagine a future in which we wear clothing that is self-cleaning.  Imagine painting your living-room wall to display a real-time image of another part of the world; or utiliz­ing greenhouse gas to make value-added products; or designing surfaces that selectively destroy viruses and pathogenic bacteria; or a sur­geon placing a removable stent that changes shape inside an artery of a patient’s body; the list goes on. What materials could provide all the prop­erties necessary for these and other future applications? Plastics!  My previous article covered a series of developments in specific areas of plastics technology—includ­ing advances in plastics nanocom­posites, plastics electronics, the self-assembly process, fuel cells, tissue engineering, and high-throughput techniques. As these areas keep maturing, other areas where plastics may be used are gaining attention. This article highlights some of the current activities that have commer­cial and social implications, and also offers a glimpse into the future.
Joe Schwarcz, August 2007
Today, worries about polystyrene focus on the toxicity of chemicals used to make the material, on the possibility of resid­ual styrene leaching into food from con­tainers, and on the non-biodegradability of the substance. Certainly, polystyrene is not readily biodegradable. But neither I, nor anyone else, can confirm that it will take hun­dreds of years for polystyrene to "break down" in the environment. It has not been around for hundreds of years, so we don't know exactly how long it takes to break down. Based on the evidence we have, however, we can assume that it will in-deed take a very long time to biodegrade, especially if the polystyrene ends up in a landfill. But is this an environmental hor­ror? Not at all!  First, a little background information is in order.
Wood Plastic Composite Market and Technology – an Update
Frank Maine, June 2007
Wood-plastic composites (WPC) may be one of the most dynamic sectors of today’s plastics industry. University researchers have taken keen interest to study WPC products.  Results are often found in polymer/plastics related conferences1-3.  The intent of this article is to update the readers on the market trends and the future of WPC technology.   
Emerging Trends in Plastics Technology
April 2007
Polymers are the backbone of plastics.  The giants of the molecular world, they can be built from simple molecules (monomers) into stars, chains, brushes and trees to generate desired application specific qualities.  The objective of this review is to highlight some examples of exciting, emerging trends of developments in plastics and in their technologies.  The scope is not limited to documenting a series of developments in plastics technology but also to inform readers where these events are taking place.
Die-drawing Process Sounds Better for Plastics
Prithu Mukhopadhyay, March 2006
Even if you are not a music lover, you heard the sound of drum beating. When a drummer hits the drum with a pair of wooden stick it makes sound. Now, you know the relationship between music and wooden drumstick.
Proton Exchange Membrane (PEM) Fuel Cells
Prithu Mukhopadhyay, March 2006
If you hear it, you heard it. Fuel cell is just not another hype-filled innovation - it is the future for power generation in our daily life. Reasons are pretty straightforward: energy independence and cleaner air. No wonder why researchers are upbeat and so are the industries, research institutions, governments and investors.
Stimuli-Responsive Polymer Gels
Prithu Mukhopadhyay, February 2006
Stimuli-responsive polymer gels - the new buzz in polymer research. What is it anyway? Simply put, stimulate plastics externally by changing temperature, light or chemical conditions to suit your application needs. Under external stimuli, for example, fluid inflated plastics or polymer gels can reversibly swell or shrink. Some of these intelligent materials have potential in sensors and display devices because these polymer gels can modulate the intensity of light for transmission or reflection. In fact, juggling colorant concentrations, Octopuses do change their body colour. They live alone under rocks and cracks on the ocean bottom. They do not have a hard shell for protection and are under continuous threat from predators such as moray eels or sharks. But they are masters of disguise and know how to change their body colour to their surroundings and moods. How do they do it? Elastic colour cells (chromatophores or sacs) all over their body contains pigments to which muscle fibers are attached. As muscle fibers contract, the sacks (mantle) become large, the pigments spread giving the colour. If the cells relax, the opposite happens. Pigments are squeezed to a pinpoint and the colour disappears. Basically, Octopuses use the reversible mechanism of diffusion and aggregation of pigments.
Wood Plastic Composite
Prithu Mukhopadhyay, February 2006
Wood and plastic are best friends these days. They can be combined to give the aesthetics of wood with the added durability of plastic. Termed as wood/plastic composites - WPCs' are a relatively new family of thermoplastic composites based on wood-fibres and the commodity thermoplastics. The polymers used for WPCs' are the high volume, low cost, commodity thermoplastics - polyethylene, polypropylene and PVC.
From Cellular to Microcellular Foam
Shau-Tarng Lee, February 2006
The concept or the technology of microcellular thermoplastic foam appears to be an interesting extension of the cross-linked polyethylene foam. Nonetheless, its advantages and recent developments have spurred many commercial uses. Given the uniqueness of the technology, the breadth of application is continuing to grow and the future has practically no limits. 
Processing Polymeric Nanocomposites
Dr. L.A. Utracki, February 2006
Polymer nanocomposite (PNC) is a polymer or copolymer having dispersed in it nano-particles 1,2 . These may be of different shape (e.g., platelets, fibers, spheroids), but at least one dimension must be ca. 1 to 50 nm (diameter of pencil lead is about 1 mm, or 1,000,000 nm). PNC with all three types of nanoparticles have been prepared (e.g., polycarbonate with carbon nanotubes, polyamide with iron oxide spheres), but only PNC with clay platelets are on the market for the structural (high volume) applications. These PNC's belong to the category of multi-phase systems (MPS, viz. blends, composites, and foams) that consume ca. 95% of plastics production. The key to industrial success of MPS is the desired and stable morphology. Thus, these systems require controlled mixing/compounding, stabilization of the achieved dispersion, orientation of the dispersed phase, and optimization of interactions in the finished product. In spite of differences in the nature of the dispersed phase, the compounding strategies for all MPS, including PNC, are similar.
Technology of Vacuum Metallized Plastics Packaging
Dr. Mount, February 2006
Polymer products are metallized by many different means for many different reasons ranging from decoration, light reflection, light barrier, to supply protection from light and gasses, to lower surface resistance, the storage of electrical charge, for control of energy dissipation during microwave cooking and many other applications. Metallized plastics are all around us in our everyday lives. In general the polymer surface is completely covered with the metal but pattern metallized surfaces are becoming more popular for both decorative and technical reasons such as antenna for security devices and control of browning reactions during microwave cooking. In general the metal most widely used in commercial applications is aluminum but large amounts of copper, silver and stainless steel alloys are also used commercially for the production of flexible circuits, reflective mirrors and susceptors for microwave pop corn. The metal is generally deposited onto a treated plastic surface by the physical vapor deposition from an evaporation source where the metal is melted in a high vacuum chamber and allowed to condense on the polymer surface which is moving above the evaporation source.
Dimension Change 'On the Fly' for Polyolefin Pipe Extrusion
Olivier Crave, February 2006
Plastic pipes are experiencing steady growth worldwide. Primarily, this is due to the performance of plastic pipes and not their cost. The applications range from water to gas to many other industries. It is not the plastic pipes that are competing with other materials. It is now the traditional materials that are competing with plastic pipes. More often than not, developments are triggered as industry encounters issues relating to cost and productivity. The growth of plastic pipes is spurred by innovations in pipe resins, in pipe structures, and in pipe processing technologies.
Chitin and Chitosan
Dr. Beaulieu, May 2005
Once words such as chitin and chitosan are in your mental radar screen, you will find them everywhere. Possibly, you had a lobster supper last night and you removed that hard outer shell as a useless stuff. In fact, you discarded the hard shell that consisted millions of tightly interwoven polymer strands called chitin. The hard outer shell, or exoskeleton, are known to give protection to shrimps, crabs, lobsters, scorpions, insects etc. from their predators. Chitin is one of the most abundant polysaccharide in nature, being only second after cellulose. It can be found in animals (exoskeletons of crustacean and insects) as well as in fungi, mushrooms and yeasts.
Getting the Most from Your Electric Injection Molding Machine
Barr Klaus, July 2004
Electric injection machines have continually deepened their penetration of the injection molding machinery market since their introduction in 1985. Almost all of the worldwide manufacturers of injection molding machines have an all-electric product line. Those that don't, offer some kind of hybrid product that uses one or more electric axis on the machine's four major axes of motion. Increasing market penetration has been constant, but large steps have come in last few years when new features and products were introduced which chunked out big pieces of net cost premium (price differential less one year's operating savings) for electric machines. Why and how the trend of electric injection machine is maturing.
Tissue Engineering - Another Hot Field For Plastics
Prithu Mukhopadhyay, October 2002
Simply put, tissue engineering is the building of living tissue and an emerging field that holds future of medicine. Tissue engineering one day may help doctors to replace or repair failing, injured or aging human body parts.
Not Only Heat Resistant, Novel Plastic Composites Provide Impact Resistance
Prithu Mukhopadhyay, December 2001
Technologically, "nanocomposite" is not a new word. However, it is currently a very exciting word for many researchers. Just like genome research. The recent development of nano-porous, nano-composites by researchers at Ohio State University adds a new dimension to heat resistant plastics.
Plastics Bring Flexibility to Fast Paced Display Technologies
Prithu Mukhopadhyay, February 2001
Commercially available current displays still have some disadvantages. For instance, those based on inorganic light emitting diodes (LED) encapsulated in glass are brittle, heavy and expensive. The good news is, displays may be available soon flexible and lighter. New and fascinating application of plastics may change the way we use monitors, cellular phones or TV screens. Now, light emitting diodes can be made of conductive polymers. These polymers behave similar to semiconductors than to metallic conductors and, when specially prepared exhibit light emission on junctions. This electroluminescent property can be exploited by depositing a fine pattern of Light Emitting Polymers (LEP) onto a wide range of flexible and inflexible substrates. Cambridge Display Technology (CDT) in UK which develops LEPs collaborates with Seiko-Epson (SEC) bringing latter's state-of-the art active matrix backplane and inkjet printing technologies. Together, they have developed a 2.5 square inch full colour display that utilizes CDT's red, green and blue polymers. Since LEPs are self-emissive (like LEDs), many components used in liquid crystal display (LCD) like polarisers, colour filters and backlights are not required. Moreover, printing of LEP material from a liquid solution reduces manufacturing cost, overall thickness and weight of the LEP display. LEP based cell phones are the first product in the market developed by Philips, a CDT partner. CDT develops LEP displays with its European, American and Asian partners including Seiko-Epson, DuPont, DELTA, Philips, Hewlett-Packard, Hoechst and Uniax.
Believe it or not Plastic is the Material of the New Millennium
Prithu Mukhopadhyay, October 2000
It starts with the Nobel Prize in Chemistry 2000. The Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences has awarded this year's Nobel Prize in Chemistry to Professor Alan J. Heeger, Professor Alan G. McDiarmid and Professor Hideki Shirakawa "for the discovery and development of electrically conductive polymers".

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