Reporter 398, 3 March 1997

Sporting chance for plastic fantastic

A unique lightweight material invented by Leeds researchers is set to revolutionise sportswear by reducing the weight of shin pads, American football armour and ice hockey gear, amongst other possible applications.

Vantage Polymers Ltd, a wholly-owned University company launched in August 1995, has developed a material with a ground-breaking combination of high impact strength and lightness.

The material is the product of an innovative process for making 'hot compacted thermoplastics', and is totally recyclable, allowing designers and manufacturers to meet increasingly strict environmental requirements.

Orders have been placed for protective sportswear and interest has also been shown by plane manufacturers - the material can be used to protect radar in the nose cones of aircraft.

In the vehicle industry, Vantage Polymers is working with companies to develop parts for under-car protection, spare tyre holders and battery containers. The product is also ideal for use in X-ray and body-scanning equipment.

A patent has been filed by Emeritus Professor Ian Ward and his team in the Interdisciplinary Research Centre.

Significant investment by the multinational chemicals company, Hoescht-Celanese Corporation, enabled the creation of Vantage Polymers Ltd, but the University retains full control. The next stage is to seek capital investment to build a continuous production line.

Vantage Polymers marketing director, Derek Riley, said: "The support the company has received from the University and University of Leeds Innovations has been invaluable. We hope to be seen as a future role model for the exploitation of research which will pay real financial dividends back to the University as Vantage becomes profitable".

The company has an expected turnover of £200,000 for this year, and high hopes for the future.

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