could now be made as springy as an elastic
band, match the properties of tissue or bone
for medical parts, or engineered to absorb
the energy of impact for car or helicopter
parts, according to major research collaborations
linking academic and industry. Now a team
of researchers, led by Leeds, have discovered
new ways to control how plastics are produced.
Project director Professor Tom McLeish (pictured
left) said: Humble polythene will
never be the same again. Its no longer
one material. Its now a whole gamut
of different materials, which can be used
in a thousand different ways.
Until now, weve had to take what
plastics gave us, without being able to predict
what chemistry will provide what we need.
Although we could produce stronger polymers,
we only had a vague understanding of what
in the process gave us that strength.
Complex neutron experiments in Durham showed
the researchers exactly what the polymer molecules
were doing during the production process.
With the help of other colleagues in Bradford,
Sheffield, Cambridge and Oxford, and with
industrial partners, the Leeds scientists
used these new insights to draw up a mathematical
model of polythenes molecular structure,
allowing designer plastics to
be created by computer for the first time.
Their findings are published in the latest
issue of Science.