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Plastics Today, September 2015

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NEW TECHNOLOGIES 10 GLObaL PLaSTICS REPORT 2015 PLaSTICSTOday.COm Easy to manufacture, low cost, lightweight and flexible, a new type of dielectric polymer that can operate at high temperatures may be the solution to energy storage and power conversion in electric vehicles and other high tempera- ture applications, according to a team of engineers at Pennsylvania State Univer- sity (University Park, PA). "Ceramics are usually the [material of] choice for energy-storage dielectrics for high-temperature applications, but they are heavy and often brittle," says Qing Wang, professor of materials sci- ence and engineering at Penn State. Polymers, on the other hand, have a low working temperature and so you need to add a cooling system, increasing the vol- ume and affecting system efficiency and reliability, notes Wang. To overcome this heat resistance issue, the Penn State team selected cross- linked divinyltetramethyldisiloxane-bis (benzocyclobutene) as the matrix poly- mer. Boron nitride nanosheets are added at a dosage of 10% by volume to impart conductivity. This boron nitride polymer composite can reportedly withstand tem- peratures above 480°F under the applica- tion of high voltages. The material is easily manufactured by mixing the polymer and nanosheets and then curing the polymer either with heat or light to create crosslinks. Because the nanosheets are tiny— about 2 nanometers in thickness and 400 nanometers in lateral size—the material remains flexible, but the combination provides unique dielec- tric properties, which include higher voltage capability, heat resistance and bendability. Dielectrics are materials that do not conduct electricity, but when they are exposed to an electric field, they store electricity. They can release energy very quickly to enable engine start-ups or to convert the direct current in batteries to the alternating current needed to drive motors. Applications, such as hybrid and elec- tric vehicles, aerospace power electronics and underground gas and oil explora- tion equipment, require materials that withstand high temperatures. The cross- linked polymer nanocomposite material has high-voltage capacity for energy stor- age at elevated temperatures and can also be photo patterned and is flexible. "Our next step is to try to make this material in large scale and put it into a real application," said Wang. In terms of sheet size, "theoretically, there is no exact scalability limit," he adds. The U.S. Office of Naval Research, U.S. Air Force Office of Scientific Research and Dow Chemical Corp. sup- ported this work. — Stephen Moore The booze version of Keurig, but with recyclable pods Flexible dielectric polymer a candidate for energy storage Breakthroughs Single-serve machines have just gotten a bit more grown-up with the latest addi- tion to the market—the Bartesian. The Canadian mixed cocktail machine elimi- nates the time spent mixing up drinks, so hosts can spend more time with their guests instead of shaking and stirring. So how does it work? The machine operates almost exactly like the Keurig single-serve coffeemaker, using premixed flavor pods to craft a variety of different alcoholic beverages. The catch, though, is that Bartesian's cocktail pods are recyclable! Keurig's K-Cups are not recy- clable, which even the inventor of the popular coffeemaker bemoans. Consumers supply their own alcohol in reservoirs on each side of the machine, which can store four base liquors. To make a drink, they just pop one of six different cocktail pods into the machine, adjust the flavor strength on a digital screen and press a button to begin the process. Each capsule contains non- alcoholic ingredients, like juices, bitters and liqueurs. The only downside—the robot bar- tender doesn't talk back. However, at least you don't have to worry about leaving a tip and can feel better about the environment while enjoying your happy hour. The Bartesian is set for delivery in April 2016. — Kari Embree The flexible material features high voltage capabil- ity and heat resistance. Alcohol is stored in reservoirs on the side of the machine. The capsules convert it into a cocktail.

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