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The Amazing Teamwork Between Polymers and Metals Pays Off

Wouldn’t you like to shake the hand of the person who first discovered that milk and cookies are great together? And high fives to the guy (or gal) who first thought to slather a slice of bread with peanut butter and slap it on top of another slice covered in jelly. Some good things become awesome when paired up with something else good – like polymers and metals.

Polymer coatings make metal more flexible.

Individually, metals and polymers are already fantastic materials with a lot to offer. Metal can deliver durability, strength and conductivity, among other useful properties. Polymers can be super-durable, flexible, versatile and even regenerative. In the long human history of making stuff, metals and polymers have each been revolutionary technological advances. Put polymers and metals together, however, and they become simply amazing, allowing us to create and engineer composites to achieve specific functions.

Polymer coatings are highly effective at making metal even more durable. That’s why you see the polymer/metal pairing in use throughout a variety of industries and applications where metal is a key component of construction. Polymer coatings provide protection against corrosion for metals used in bridges, pipelines, automobiles, airplanes and even smartphones. Coating polymers with metal produces different beneficial results such as pleasing aesthetics, static reduction and even the ability to create movement through use of an electric charge.

We’re already using many polymer and metal composites and more are being developed every day. In many ways, we’ve only just begun to tap the potential of polymer-metal pairings, and already we’ve created incredible things. For example, ionic polymer-metal composites (IPMCs) are made of ionic polymers coated with a thin layer of platinum or gold. When you apply an electric charge to the paired materials, they transform the electricity into movement of the ions in the polymer. That’s right, material that moves on its own! And it works in both water and air. IPMCs have potential applications in biomedical engineering and environmental robotics.

Another application that’s recently entered the consumer market place is wearable electronics. The stretchable wires that make wearable electronics possible rely on an innovative marriage of plastic and metal. A hollow polymer fiber contains liquid metal, creating a wire that can stretch to eight times its original length without losing conductivity. If you’ve used an electronic wristband to monitor your heart rate while jogging, chances are you’ve experienced this amazing technology.

With the number of applications for polymer and metal composites growing exponentially, analyzing these composites, copolymers and metal alloys will be an increasingly complex process. Contact us to learn about how Polymer Solutions can help you determine the elemental composition and chemical structure in any polymer-metal composite or blend.