Inexpensive plastic used in CDs could improve aircraft, computer electronics

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Washington, May 16 (ANI): An inexpensive plastic used to manufacture CDs and DVDs will one day soon be put to use in improving the integrity of electronics in aircraft, computers and iPhones.

Thanks to a pair of grants from the US Air Force, Shay Curran, associate professor of physics at UH, and his research team have demonstrated ultra-high electrical conductive properties in plastics, called polycarbonates, by mixing them with just the right amount and type of carbon nanotubes.

Curran, who initially began this form of research a decade ago at Trinity College Dublin, started to look at high-conductive plastics in a slightly different manner.

Curran's team has come up with a strategy to achieve higher conductivities using carbon nanotubes in plastic hosts than what has been currently achieved.

By combining nanotubes with polycarbonates, Curran's group was able to reach a milestone of creating nanocomposites with ultra-high conductive properties.

"While its mechanical and optical properties are very good, polycarbonate is a non-conductive plastic. That means its ability to carry an electrical charge is as good as a tree, which is pretty awful," Curran said.

"Imagine that this remarkable plastic can now not only have good optical and mechanical properties, but also good electrical characteristics. By being able to tailor the amount of nanotubes we can add to the composite, we also can change it from the conductivity of silicon to a few orders below that achieved by metals," he added.

Making this very inexpensive plastic highly conductive could benefit electronics in everything from military aircraft to personal computers.

Computer failure, for instance, results from the build up of thermal and electrical charges, so developing these polymer nanotube composites into an antistatic coating or to provide a shield against electromagnetic interference would increase the lifespan of computing devices, ranging from PCs to PDAs.

The next step of this research is to develop ink formulations to paint these polycarbonate nanocomposites onto various electrical components. (ANI)

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