An innovative new plastic-based material with low impact on the environment has been developed and tested at the University of Bristol.
The material was developed by Professor Mark Wilson from the University’s Department of Materials Science and Engineering.
It has a life expectancy of up to 25 years, is flexible and recyclable and can be easily integrated into new materials.
“It is a very exciting new material that we have been developing for many years and this is our most ambitious polymer yet,” Professor Wilson said.
“Our main motivation was to make the material sustainable for future uses, such as flexible solar panels, solar cells, batteries and water-soluble coatings.”
The researchers tested a range of plastics in a variety of applications.
They created a thin layer of the material and then injected a mixture of carbon nanotubes and silicon carbide into a mould.
A polymer layer was then produced and then the material was exposed to different chemicals, including hydrogen sulfide, to form the carbon nanostructures.
The results showed the polymer layer could survive for more than 100,000 cycles without breaking.
“This material has a very low impact, but still retains a long lifespan,” Professor Martin Siegel, from the Department of Chemistry, said.
Professor Wilson and his team have also used this material to develop new nanostructure materials that are highly flexible and durable, and are widely used in medical implants and biofuels.
These materials have been used to make flexible and lightweight flexible film solar panels for example, which can be used in solar cells and in biofuers.
The team is now testing the material in a range a materials that would have previously been considered to be highly toxic.
The new polymer material, called tricorophene, has a molecular weight of 1.8 electron volts (EV) per molecule.
It can be made in a lab from a number of different types of materials, including titanium dioxide, zinc oxide and graphite.
Professor Siegel said the material has the potential to change the way we manufacture, transport and store our goods.
“We’ve been working on this material for some time, but we really have been able to get the right balance between what is environmentally friendly and how much it will last,” he said.
He said this could potentially have an impact on all forms of manufacturing, including pharmaceuticals, electronic devices, electrical machinery and even plastics.
“In the future, we could really see these materials being used to produce everything from a new generation of mobile phones to the high-tech sensors that will make the internet a reality,” he added.
Professor Jolyon Gormley, from University College London, said the work could have a big impact on how we manage our environment.
“These materials will enable us to build up a huge range of applications that could have an environmental impact,” he explained.
“One application we’ve been looking at is biodegradable solar panels.
A lot of our manufacturing processes are based on chemical reactions that we would have to avoid if we want to make these materials,” he concluded.