Innovation of the Week: 2014

Professor Plastic loves to share new innovations in plastics that contribute to sustainability, safety, longer lives and better performance. Choose an Innovation of the Week to learn more.

  • Dog with plastic prosthetic legs
    Now go play, big fella December 19, 2014 - See Derby run! Plastic prosthetic legs created on a 3-D printer help a dog born with deformities run for the first time. Now he can run and play with other dogs every day. Image: 3-D Systems Learn More
  • Print a dress for me
    Print a dress for me December 12, 2014 - Plastics + origami + 3-D printing = little black dress. Or white. Designers can “print” a posh, bespoke dress from plastics—watch a video of how it flows and moves with the wearer. Learn More
  • Woman outdoors sitting on scooter by the Eiffel Tower
    Just scooting around December 5, 2014 - Plastics (from Solvay) and 3-D printing are used to create a lightweight electric scooter for urban mobility—weighing only 28.5 pounds, it folds and then rolls for toting and storage. Learn More
  • Climbing on skyscraper
    Learning from geckos November 21, 2014 - Will humans climb buildings? A new adhesive made with silicone polymer (plastic) works like gecko feet. Possible uses: military, space, robots, manufacturing … superhero (kidding). Learn More
  • Delivering aid to the ailing
    Delivering aid to the ailing November 14, 2014 - Researchers are developing cancer-fighting medical implants—and even therapeutic drugs on demand—using a 3-D printer and biodegradable plastics that are broken down by the body. Learn More
  • Cute boy playing football
    The power under our feet November 7, 2014 - Soccer legend Pelé helped unveil a kids’ soccer field in Brazil where kinetic-energy tiles (made mostly of recycled plastics) create electricity from footsteps to light the field. Learn More
  • Baseball player catching ball
    Let’s play ball! October 31, 2014 - Nike has created a baseball glove made mostly from plastics that’s 20 percent lighter and requires zero time to break in. It’s now used in pro baseball—and available soon to the rest of us. Learn More
  • Great White Shark
    Learning from nature October 24, 2014 - Researchers are mimicking sharkskin to try to develop plastic materials that could improve vehicle fuel efficiency, minimize infections in hospitals, and enable underwater robots. Learn More
  • Young girl holding green oil container
    Plastics-to-oil = energy, jobs, $ October 17, 2014 - Emerging technologies can convert non-recycled plastics into oil. A new study says these technologies could generate $9 billion annually in the U.S. and 40,000 domestic jobs. Learn More
  • Plastic warriors
    Plastic warriors October 9, 2014 - IBM researchers are developing “ninja polymers,” nanoscale plastics that can hunt and kill harmful microbes (e.g., MRSA) inside the body—and then biodegrade. Learn More
  • Female nurse holding syringe
    A better vaccination through plastics... October 2, 2014 - Micro-needles made from silicon polymers could help lower vaccine costs, minimize pain, and increase protection against infectious diseases like malaria. Learn More
  • Wearable charge
    Wearable charge September 25, 2014 - Will your T-shirt someday power your mobile devices? Researchers are developing flexible plastic solar cell textiles—giving a whole new meaning to wearable electronics. Learn More
  • And hot off the printer...
    And hot off the printer... September 18, 2014 - Check out this 3-D printed car made with carbon fiber-reinforced plastics (from SABIC). Local Motors printed it in two days—and hopes someday to print cars while customers wait. Learn More
  • LCD Television With Green Nature on Screen
    Turnings DVDs into TVs September 11, 2014 - Sony uses scrap optical discs to make recycled polycarbonate plastic for use in its TVs, laptops, cameras, and more—and also will sell the recycled plastic to other companies. Learn More
  • An injured man's finger in a splint.
    Artistic mending September 4, 2014 - Is it medicine? Or art? See how companies are using plastics and 3-D printers to create attractive finger splints, casts for broken bones, gloves for carpal tunnel syndrome, and more. Learn More
  • Change
    Chameleon-like plastics August 28, 2014 - Watch this video showing plastics that change color with temperature variations (called thermochromic polymers). Potential uses include biological sensors and smart windows. Learn More
  • Bandages crossing
    Plastics to the rescue August 21, 2014 - Can plastics help burn victims? Researchers are developing an ultrathin coating (nanosheet) of polyester that can conform to human body shapes and help block deadly infections. Learn More
  • Hand cleaning a window
    This is so absorbing August 14, 2014 - A plastic sponge to soak up CO2? Researchers are developing a plastic absorbent for the greenhouse gas emitted from smokestacks and created during energy production. Learn More
  • Flaming golf ball
    Driving for the green August 8, 2014 - DuPont has been putting around ways to help golf balls go farther, with more touch around greens. Plus, the plastic core of an advanced new ball contains renewably sourced content. Learn More
  • Plastic bags
    Recycle when you shop! July 31, 2014 - In addition to grocery bags, Canada’s largest retailer Walmart now collects Ziploc® bags and other plastic bags and wraps for recycling. Just like 1000s of U.S. grocers/retailers. Learn More
  • Green stick figure holding light bulb
    Potential energy source July 24, 2014 - Plastic power? Scientists are developing “semi-metal, thermoelectric” plastics that may help turn waste heat (from car exhaust, factory emissions, machinery) into electricity. Learn More
  • Red plastic spring
    Plastics on the road July 17, 2014 - A new lightweight suspension spring for high-end Audi cars will be made from glass fiber-reinforced plastics—it’s 60 percent lighter (fuel savings!) and uses less energy to manufacture. Learn More
  • Print me a plastic home
    Print me a plastic home July 10, 2014 - A Dutch architecture firm is using a massive 3-D printer and bio-plastics made from vegetable oil to build a canal house onsite in Amsterdam devoted to 3-D exhibition and research. Learn More
  • Gooooooooooooal! Score one with plastics
    Gooooooooooooal! Score one with plastics June 26, 2014 - The “Brazuca” soccer ball by Adidas is made with specialty plastics from Bayer MaterialScience—it’s a rounder ball that gives players better control and touch, says Bayer.
  • Two football players at stadium
    Goooooooooooooal! Score one for the planet. June 19, 2014 - Nike uses recycled polyester to make its World Cup jerseys for players (and fans!)—the shirts give new life to millions of plastic bottles. Learn More
  • Tomato on blue toy truck
    "Ketchup" on the latest plastics June 12, 2014 - You say … tom-auto? Ford and Heinz are collaborating to produce auto parts made with plastics derived from a leftover of ketchup production: dried tomato skins. Learn More
  • Illustration of fish on green skateboard
    From fishing nets to skateboards June 5, 2014 - Taking it from the sea to the streets … A new company makes skateboards with recycled plastics from discarded fishing nets gathered on the coast of Chile—each board ≈ 30 sq ft of net. Learn More
  • Comet moving passing planet earth
    Plastics take us into space May 29, 2014 - A spaceship fueled by plastics? Virgin Galactic’s SpaceShipTwo will use a “polyamide-based fuel grain” and nitrous oxide to power itself to space (FYI: nylon is a polyamide plastic) Learn More
  • Reycle button
    New computers made from...old computers? May 22, 2014 - Dell plans to make new laptops, desktops, and monitors with plastics recycled from used electronics, which cuts down on e-waste and reduces carbon emissions, the company says. Learn More
  • International Space Station
    “Printing" and recycling plastics in space May 15, 2014 - NASA plans to send a 3-D printer that uses plastics to the international space station to “print” needed parts—and perhaps a plastics recycler to recycle plastics into new raw materials. Learn More
  • Syringe needle
    This might hurt less now May 8, 2014 - Does anyone like getting a needle injection? New plastic devices may make it more bearable by using vibrations to reduce the pain signals sent to your brain. Learn More
  • Disaster Strikes Newspaper
    Inspiring innovations that help people in need May 5, 2014 - See how a humble plastic coffee cup inspired a new lightweight emergency shelter made with plastic composite walls and foam insulation, designed to be shipped and assembled quickly. Learn More
  • Metano white
    Plastics—from cows? April 24, 2014 - Will your next cell phone case be made from greenhouse gases? One company today is using the carbon from methane (e.g., from cows) to make plastics for furniture, auto parts, packaging… Learn More
  • Self-destructing plastic
    “This plastic will self-destruct in five seconds…” April 17, 2014 - Remember self-destructing tapes in Mission Impossible? Researchers are developing plastics to dissolve on demand when stolen or captured … or when needed in medical implants. Learn More
  • Red plastic cargo container
    Around the world in plastics? April 10, 2014 - Cargo containers changed the face of world trade—but must they be so heavy? Lighter carbon fiber/plastic composite containers could save energy, money—and help prevent smuggling. Learn More
  • From ocean litter to blue jeans
    From ocean litter to blue jeans April 3, 2014 - Bionic Yarn makes yarn with recycled plastic bottles—including “recovered plastic from the ocean,” says company. Watch their video with company Creative Director Pharrell Williams. Learn More
  • Young child biting onto plastic bowl
    Plastics + bag = clean water March 27, 2014 - See how an engineering student created a plastic “waterbag” to collect, treat, carry, and store water for use after disasters … and provide clean drinking water to impoverished people. Learn More
  • Brown drop with recycle symbol
    Plastics raw materials come full circle... March 20, 2014 - Used plastics that aren’t recycled can find a new place in the world. Emerging technologies can turn them into crude oil for fuel … or even chemicals to make new plastics! Learn More
  • Crispy pan-fried strips of bacon
    Bacon!!! March 13, 2014 - Everybody loves bacon (well, almost everybody)—this popular new cooking gadget uses tough, FDA approved plastics to create “bacon bowls” in the oven or microwave. Yum! Learn More
  • Alchemy at the Olympics
    Alchemy at the Olympics? March 6, 2014 - Plastics were turned into “medal” at Sochi games. Dow Chemical helped create high-tech luges using carbon fiber-reinforced plastics. The result—Team USA’s first singles luge medal! Learn More
  • Raccoon
    Raccoons don't like minty plastics? February 27, 2014 - New plastic trash bags infused with mint fragrance are designed to repel hungry rats and raccoons. The “Product of the Year” award-winning bags are made from 83 percent recycled plastic. Learn More
  • Finger holding contact lens
    From Google[x] labs February 20, 2014 - No more painful finger pricks for diabetics? Google is developing a plastic contact lens designed to monitor blood glucose and flash when levels aren’t normal. Learn More
  • Two boys studying in the dark near a solar light
    A clean, safe, cheap light February 13, 2013 - To save money and reduce fire risk and noxious fumes, solar lights are replacing kerosene lamps in impoverished areas—the solar panel, LED, and housing: all made with durable plastics. Learn More
  • Batter ready to hit baseball
    On the pitcher's mound today: plastics February 7, 2014 - Major League Baseball has approved a new protective baseball cap for pitchers—added plastic padding helps protect against line drives up to 90 miles per hour, says MLB and cap maker. Learn More
  • Los Angeles water resevoir
    Plastic balls protecting drinking water? January 30, 2014 - Millions of plastic “shade balls” will help protect drinking water in Los Angeles reservoir by preventing growth of unwanted substances and reducing evaporation up to 90 percent. Learn More
  • Used bags become new bags
    Used bags become new bags January 23, 2014 - Wegmans supermarkets score one for the environment by using 40 percent recycled-content plastic grocery bags—made in part from plastic bags recycled at Wegmans! Watch the recycling video. Learn More
  • Man with red white and green face painting
    Plastics supplanting trees... January 16, 2014 - Kenya’s government is fostering use of expanded polystyrene insulation panels to build stronger, cheaper homes and to combat a critical environmental concern: deforestation. Learn More
  • Paper money
    Paper or Plastic? January 9, 2014 - The Bank of England will turn to plastic bank notes! Why? Improved quality, security from counterfeiting and “lower cost to the taxpayer and the environment,” says Bank’s Governor. Learn More
  • Plastic contact lens
    Superman Eyesight... January 2, 2014 - The next James Bond gadget? Researchers are working on plastic contact lenses that can magnify 2.8 times—not for spying but to help people with degenerated eyesight. Learn More