IBM creates new class of recyclable polymers

Researchers at IBM have created a new family of experimental polymers that could deliver cheaper, lighter, stronger and recyclable materials ideal for electronics, aerospace, airline and automotive industries.

Washington: Researchers at IBM have created a new family of experimental polymers that could deliver cheaper, lighter, stronger and recyclable materials ideal for electronics, aerospace, airline and automotive industries.

Scientists from IBM Research used a novel `computational chemistry` hybrid approach to accelerate the materials discovery process that couples lab experimentation with the use of high-performance computing.

These new materials are the first to demonstrate resistance to cracking, strength higher than bone, the ability to reform to their original shape (self-heal), all while being completely recyclable back to their starting material.
Also, these materials can be transformed into new polymer structures to further bolster their strength by 50 per cent - making them ultra strong and lightweight.

The discovery of a new family of materials with a range of tunable and desirable properties provides a new opportunity for exploratory research and applications development to academia, materials manufacturers and end users of high performance materials, IBM researchers said.

Two new related classes of materials have been discovered which possess a very distinctive range of properties that include high stiffness, solvent resistance, the ability to heal themselves once a crack is introduced and to be used as a resin for filled composite materials to further bolster their strength.

The ability to selectively recycle a structural component would have significant impact in the semiconductor industry, advanced manufacturing or advanced composites for transportation, as one would be able to rework high-value but defective manufactured parts or chips instead of throwing them away, researchers said.
This could bolster fabrication yields, save money and significantly decrease microelectronic waste, they said.

"Although there has been significant work in high-performance materials, today`s engineered polymers still lack several fundamental attributes. New materials innovation is critical to addressing major global challenges, developing new products and emerging disruptive technologies," said James Hedrick, Advanced Organic Materials Scientist, IBM Research.

The research was published in the journal Science.

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