It is truly rewarding for any scientific team when the concept that they have been working on for years and years finally realizes and makes it between the covers of the highest rated journals, let’s say Nature or Science.
However, if the the next greatest invention is born as a result of a simple laboratory mistake, and it is not a product of numerous hours spent in the experiment rooms, then the pleasure is even greater. This is what happened to Dr Jeanette Garcia, a scientists from the IBM’s Almaden Research Center in San Jose, who simply forgot to add some of the components into the lab beaker, and created the first ever highly durable and recyclable thermoset plastic. The new material has the potential to completely transform the manufacturing processes of cars, planes and electronics, making them extra green.
The reaction that formed the new plastics is extremely simple and it requires very few components. That is why, Dr. Garcia was very surprised to find out that no one has done this before her. Naturally, this is when she thought she has made a mistake, and decided to repeatedly perform the reaction in order to find out if it would always result in the same miracle material. The answer- yes, it did. And that is not all. The incredible hard and stable piece of material could easily be digested back into its original components only by adding acid. These are then perfectly suitable for reuse.
The findings of this experiment appeared in the latest issue of the journal Science. In the publication, Garcia explains the process and the suitability of this extremely light and yet super strong plastic to be used in the construction of new type of aircrafts and vehicles. In addition, the new material could be transformed into a gel substance and be also used in various other industries, including cosmetics and drug capsules manufacturing, where the solubility adds a great advantage.
The material is truly revolutionary, and provides a simple solution to a problem that many have been trying to solve for years- recycle instead of dump in a landfill site.
Image (c) IBM Research Center