Steel to be Replaced by Plastic?Category: Science & Technology
Posted: June 15, 2012 12:20PM
Two of the most common materials in our daily lives are plastics and steel. Normally we see plastic as this light and somewhat weak thing while steel is heavy and very strong, but researchers at Tel Aviv University are looking to mix that up. Thanks to a clever rethinking of how to work with plastics, the researchers were able to make the strongest polypropylene yet.
Plastics, or polymers, are comprised of regular chains of molecules and generally the more regular and accurate the chains are the stronger and more resilient the plastic is. To create these molecular chains, catalysts have to be used, and what the Tel Aviv researchers realized is that generally the same catalysts are used by everybody. They decided to design their own catalyst, and it can grow the most accurate chains for polypropylene, which gives the plastic its great strength.
Though the strength of the plastic now reaches to that of steel, its weight has not increased as drastically. This means that a lightweight and cheap-to-make plastic could be used to replace the heavy metal in things such as cars and water pipes. This could cut the cost of cars while increasing their fuel efficiency and make replacing damaged water pipes easier, as less-heavy pipes are easier to move around. Also the strong plastic will last longer than current plastics, so there will be less waste as broken items are discarded.