Reporter 461, 12 February 2001

New plastic looks like hot property

A new material invented by scientists at the University of Leeds could soon be in everyday use around the world Ė and may even pave the way for recyclable cars.

BP has acquired exclusive rights for the production of the new plastic material, which is not only extremely strong, durable and light, but recyclable too.

The motor industry has already recognised the productís potential for use in vehicle interiors but its uses extend much further, into sports protection, for example. It is also suitable for use in a wide variety of consumer goods.

Its impact resistance is maintained even at sub-zero temperatures, offering outstanding opportunities for cold weather and refrigeration applications.

Hot-compacted polypropylene was invented at the University by Professor Ian Ward FRS, Dr Peter Hine and Mr Keith Norris of the IRC in Polymer Science and Technology.

Plastics pioneer: Professor Ian Ward

A new trade name for the product will be announced shortly and commercial production is expected to start soon in Germany. The University will be involved in the productís future development.

Professor Ward said: "It is excellent that the IRC research has led to a major commercial development."

The manufacturing process involves thermoplastic fibres being compacted to form a homogeneous solid without the use of a second material.

The process works by selectively melting a small fraction of each fibre surface, which recrystallises on cooling to bind the structure together. In general only 20 per cent of the fibre is lost in the process with the result that a high percentage of the original fibreís properties are retained in a self-reinforced lightweight thermoplastic composite with properties such as exceptional impact resistance, thermoformability and recyclability.

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