Friday, July 7, 2017

A cat discovers milk plastic

It seems like much of scientific discovery is serendipitous, and this story is no exception. The combination of a cat in the laboratory, an open container of formaldehyde (?!?), and a milk dish leads to the discovery of a new polymeric material. It did not end well for the cat according to this account.

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Ninja Polymers!

Seriously, having the word "ninja" associated with your research is just pretty awesome, no matter what your field is.  Researchers at IBM have produced a self-assembling, ninja polymer that targets and destroys bacteria, and then it disappears into the darkness (well, degrades in the body, but the ninja description is just too good here).  Read more about it here.

Friday, August 3, 2012

Oh no, Canada!

Seems that plastic currency still needs some tweaking, though the failure rate is still much less than 1%.  Read more here.

Thursday, April 19, 2012

I am so sorry for missing your birthday, Polyethylene.

Dear Polyethylene,

I will just start by apologizing profusely. I am so sorry. I meant to wish you a happy birthday on March 27, but I was busy. I know, I know, everyone is busy, and it is not a super excuse. I am trusting that your compliant nature (at least at room temperature) will prevail, and we can be friends again.

In your honor, I am posting a link about your life story. It is hard to believe that you are almost 80 which is so young considering your wide-spread impact.

Next year we will celebrate properly (hopefully).


Friday, February 10, 2012

First BPA, Now BSE

Why I find this fascinating, I cannot explain. Like many folks out there, I dutifully replaced polycarbonate water bottles, food packaging, and baby bottles in my house following increased scrutiny of the health effects of BPA. The topic even comes up in Ph.D. proposals. Acceptance of the dangers of plastic materials by the public at large is seemingly easy and quick which is why this report concerning animal-free plastics from Plastics Today piqued my interest. I wonder how long it will be before this concern jumps from materials used in medical applications to commodity applications.

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Oh Canada!

It's been a while. I know. I am painfully aware. I started with a goal of posting every two weeks; then thought monthly would be okay. Now, I will just do my best (which is a good philosophy in most all aspects of life).

In the evolving spirit of the season, I thought Canada's plastic currency would be a good topic. The new bills are made from polypropylene and are expected to last 2.5 times longer than paper bills. Plus, the plastic bills are harder to counterfeit. Bonus! Detailed photos of the new bills are available here.

Friday, September 2, 2011

PTFE: the non-stick wonder

PTFE, known chemically as poly(tetrafluoroethylene) or popularly by the trademarked moniker Teflon, holds a special place in my heart as my original motivation to pursue a career in science. When I was a girl with a barely double digit age, I became aware of my mother's non-stick frying pan as I was starting to participate in the daily household chores. This concept was fascinating to me, and so I went about the house in a trench coat pretending to be a scientist whose goal was to discover the next Teflon. My father wanted me to be an accountant instead because everyone needs an accountant.

My commitment to a science-based career wavered somewhat in my teens as I thought I could become the next J.D. Salinger, but it returned just in time to begin college (whew!). Ultimately, I would learn that I loved materials science, so I began a career focused on polymers which is shockingly consistent with my early days of pretending to be a scientist.

However, I digress from the topic of this post. The story of PTFE has all the trappings of great scientific discoveries. It happened by accident (think penicillin and silly putty) and under somewhat dangerous circumstances (cutting open a gas cylinder, not generally good laboratory practice). Now, this material and its variants are part our daily lives in applications such as cookware, electrical wiring coatings, and Gore-Tex clothing.

A much more thorough and well-written version of the discovery of PTFE was written by Tim Palucka and published in the May 2006 issue of the MRS Bulletin.