Ultra-tough, self-healing, recyclable plastics

 

IBM discovers new class of ultra-tough, self-healing, recyclable plastics:

IBM discovers new class of ultra-tough, self-healing, recyclable plastics that could redefine almost every industry

IBM discovers new class of ultra-tough, self-healing, recyclable plastics that could redefine almost every industry

IBM Research announced this morning that it has discovered a whole new class of… plastics. This might not sound quite as sexy as, say, MIT discovering a whole new state of matter — but wait until you hear what these new plastics can do. This new class of plastics — or more accurately, polymers — are stronger than bone, have the ability to self-heal, are light-weight, and are 100% recyclable. The number of potential uses, spanning industries as disparate as aerospace and semiconductors, is dizzying. A new class of polymers hasn’t been discovered in over 20 years — and, in a rather novel twist, they weren’t discovered by chemists: they were discovered by IBM’s supercomputers.

One of the key components of modern industry and consumerism is the humble thermosetting plastic. Thermosetting plastics — which are just big lumps of gooey polymer that are shaped and then cured (baked) — are light and easy to work with, but incredibly hard and heat resistant. The problem is, once a thermoset has been cured, there’s no turning back — you can’t return it to its gooey state. This means that if you (the engineer, the designer) make a mistake, you have to start again. It also means that thermoset plastics cannot be recycled. Once you’re done with that Galaxy S5, the thermoset chassis can’t be melted down and reused; it goes straight to the dump. IBM’s new polymer retains all of a thermosetting plastic’s useful properties — but it can also be recycled.

IBM’s new class of polymers began life, as they often do in chemistry circles, as an accident. Jeannette Garcia had been working on another type of polymer, when she suddenly noticed that the solution in her flask had unexpectedly hardened. “We couldn’t get it out, We had to smash the flask with a hammer, and, even then, we couldn’t smash the material itself. It’s one of these serendipitous discoveries.” She didn’t know how she’d created this new polymer, though, and so she joined forces with IBM’s computational chemistry team to work backwards from the final polymer. Using IBM’s supercomputing might, the chemists and the techies were able to work back to mechanism that caused the surprise reaction.

Scanning electron microscope image of the new PHT polymer discovered by IBM Research

This new class of polymer is called polyhexahydrotriazine, or PHT. [DOI: 10.1126/science.1251484 – “Recyclable, Strong Thermosets and Organogels via Paraformaldehyde Condensation with Diamines”]. It’s formed from a reaction between paraformaldehyde and 4,4ʹ-oxydianiline (ODA), which are both already commonly used in polymer production (this is very important if they want the new polymer to be adopted by the industry). The end result shows very high strength and toughness, like other thermosets, but its heat resistance is a little lower than other thermosets (it decomposes at around 350C, rather than 425C).

Jeannette “Jamie” Garcia: One happy IBM Researcher

In short, then, IBM has created a new plastic that could impact a number of industries in a very big way. The advantages of self-healing, tough plastics are highly evident in the aerospace, transportation, and architecture/construction industries. Thermoplastics also play a big part in the electronics industry, from the low-level packaging of computer chips, through to the chassis of your smartphone. In all of these areas, recyclability and self-healing could be a huge boon. As Garcia says, “If IBM had this 15 years ago, it would have saved unbelievable amounts of money.” Not to worry, Jeannette — there’s still plenty of time for IBM to save (and make) billions of dollars with this new plastic.

 

 

Source:  extremetech.com

 

MIT discovers a new kind of magnetism

MIT discovers a new state of matter, a new kind of magnetism:

MIT discovers a new state of matter, a new kind of magnetism

MIT discovers a new state of matter, a new kind of magnetism

Researchers at MIT have discovered a new state of matter with a new kind of magnetism. This new state, called a quantum spin liquid (QSL), could lead to significant advances in data storage. QSLs also exhibit a quantum phenomenon called long-range entanglement, which could lead to new types of communications systems, and more. Generally, when we talk about magnetism’s role in the realm of technology, there are just two types: Ferromagnetism and antiferromagnetism. Ferromagnetism has been known about for centuries, and is the underlying force behind your compass’s spinning needle or the permanent bar magnets you played with at school. In ferromagnets, the spin (i.e. charge) of every electron is aligned in the same direction, causing two distinct poles. In antiferromagnets, neighboring electrons point in the opposite direction, causing the object to have zero net magnetism (pictured below). In combination with ferromagnets, antiferromagnets are used to create spin valves: the magnetic sensors used in hard drive heads.

Antiferromagnetic ordering

In the case of quantum spin liquids, the material is a solid crystal — but the internal magnetic state is constantly in flux. The magnetic orientations of the electrons (their magnetic moment) fluctuate as they interact with other nearby electrons. “But there is a strong interaction between them, and due to quantum effects, they don’t lock in place,” says Young Lee, senior author of the research. It is these strong interactions that apparently allow for long-range quantum entanglement. The existence of QSLs has been theorized since 1987, but until now no one has succeeded in actually finding one. In MIT’s case, the researchers spent 10 months growing a tiny sliver of herbertsmithite (pictured above) — a material that was suspected to be a QSL, but which had never been properly investigated. (Bonus points if you can guess who herbertsmithite is named after.) Using neutron scattering — firing a beam of neutrons at a material to analyze its structure — the researchers found that the herbertsmithite was indeed a QSL. Moving forward, Lee says that the discovery of QSLs could lead to advances in data storage (new forms of magnetic storage) and communications (long-range entanglement). Lee also seems to think that QSLs could lead us towards higher-temperature superconductors — i.e. materials that superconduct under relatively normal conditions, rather than -200C. Really, though, the most exciting thing about quantum spin liquids is that they’re completely new, and thus we ultimately have no idea how they might eventually affect our world. “We have to get a more comprehensive understanding of the big picture,” Lee says. “There is no theory that describes everything that we’re seeing.”

Woman discovers husband was her FATHER

Ohio woman discovers that her husband was her FATHER:

Woman discovers husband was her FATHER

Woman discovers husband was her FATHER

An Ohio woman is finally speaking out about the pain she suffered after discovering that the man she married also fathered her. Valerie Spruill of Doylestown learned of her husband’s identity six years after he passed away in 1998 thanks to an uncle who eventually came forward with the truth. She says she is now going public with her past in the hopes that it will inspire those going through a rough time. “I want this to be more of an inspirational story,” the 60-year-old told the newspaper. “If I’ve come through this, anyone can come through anything through the help of the Lord.” Valerie’s mother and father, Percy Spruill, first started seeing each other when he was 15. It remains unclear how many children they had together, though Valerie says she is aware of six brothers. Valerie’s grandmother began taking care of her when she was 3-months-old, but it wasn’t until age 9 that Valerie discovered the first of many secrets her family had kept from her. She learned that the man she believed was her father was actually her grandfather. She also realized that a woman who said she was a family friend actually was her mother. The story “needs to be told, because children need to know where they come from,” she said. “And I know it hurts, because I have been devastated by this.” Her mother, Christine, was a “night lady” before she died in 1984, Valerie said. Christine testified in the infamous 1980s corruption trial of Summit County Probate Judge James Barbuto, who was later convicted of sex charges. In 2004, Valerie confirmed that her late husband was her father with the help of a DNA test. Valerie said she can’t say for certain whether Percy was aware of the extent of their relationship, though she believes he did know and was simply too afraid to tell her. She is still seeing a therapist to come to terms with the difficult revelation. She has also sought medical treatment for a series of serious medical problems that she believes stem from the stress she endured in the years after the discovery. Valerie says she hopes her decision to go public will help her find more siblings. “My biggest goal is to find them and let ’em know that [their mother] loved them, no matter what,” she said. “And [to say], ‘Thank God she gave you away like she did me, so you could have a beautiful life.'”