To commemorate Polymer Solutions Incorporated’s 25 years in business, we’ve collected the top 25 innovations using polymers and plastics that are making the world a better — and cooler — place. The first 13 appeared in a post on Jan. 29. Here is the last batch of 12. Are there other innovations that you’d like to suggest?
Carbon dioxide capture — Backed by the U.S. Department of Energy, researchers at Ohio State University have developed a polymer membrane that more efficiently filters and stores carbon dioxide emitted from coal-fired power plants.
Skin healer – Scientists at Johns Hopkins University have developed a jelly-like hydrogel and wound treatment method that could help heal injuries ranging from severe, third-degree burns (that often obliterate skin to the muscle) to foot ulcers on diabetics without leaving scars.
Tendon builder — University of Pennsylvania scientists have developed a technology that uses polymers to construct a composite nanofibrous scaffold on which cells can colonize to repair torn tendons and ligaments. The key is not packing the fibers in the scaffold too tightly.
Plastic lumber — A company in Minnesota has plastic lumber that it says is stronger and more durable than wood lumber. Testing of the product shows that it does not get brittle in cold temperatures, a common problem with plastics.
Water collection – Scientists from the Netherlands and Hong Kong have developed a polymer that, when applied to cotton, can absorb water from the air. The cotton fabric can hold up to 340% of its weight in water, and the water collected is potable.
Solar cell – Polymer solar cells get more efficient. They are lighter than silicon-based cells, potentially disposable, flexible, have less environmental impact, and are relatively inexpensive to build.
Electrical generator — A polymer film against a rigid matrix moves when it contacts water vapor, generating electrical power.
Gas separation — A polymer membrane developed by scientists at Cardiff University’s School of Chemistry separates gases more efficiently based on the different sizes of gas molecules. The innovation will help industrial processes, such as when nitrogen needs to be separated from oxygen, or to purify natural gas or hydrogen.
Desalination – German researchers have developed a heat-conducting polymer composite tube that they believe will soon replace titanium in thermal desalination plants and help reduce corrosion.
Algae into fuel – NASA is developing a technology that uses large arrays of plastic tubes that float in seawater and contain algae that can be converted into fuel. The floating cultivation system is designed to grow freshwater algae in municipal wastewater using photobioreactors, or flexible plastic tubes. After the oil is removed from the algae, the remnant material can be used to produce fertilizer, natural gas, and animal feed.
Warm hands — Chaval Outdoor has all-leather heated ski gloves that takes advantage of polymer nanotechnology to heat hands in freezing temperatures longer than any other brand.
Easy-opening packaging — Peelable film developed by Amcor Flexibles seals polyester-based surfaces to provide easy opening on flexible packaging so that it does not get damaged or torn.
Dale McGeehon has been a journalist and editor for more than 25 years, covering chemical regulation and testing for Pesticides and Toxic Chemical News and innovations in material sciences for the National Technology Transfer Center. His writing credits include Omni and College Park magazines and The New York Times.