Innovation of the Week: 2016

Professor Plastic loves to share new innovations in plastics that contribute to sustainability, safety, longer lives and better performance. That's why she's been collecting her favorite plastics innovations for more than four years running.

Choose an Innovation of the Week to learn more.

  • Waving American flag in stadium
    Old Glory unfurled (in nylon) December 30, 2016- A college Bowl’s football field-sized flag is 45,000 sq. feet of nylon (plastic) and carried by 250 people. Read how it’s also been unfurled at major pro sports games… notably after 9/11 Learn More
  • Street with Christmas decorations
    Thousands of lights spread holiday cheer December 23, 2016– They’re just little plastic bulbs ... but this Virginia village bedecked its streets with 100,000+ sparkling lights for residents and train travelers to ooh and aah over. Happy Holidays! Learn More
  • Platio solar panel sidewalk
    “Underfoot" solar power made with recycled plastics December 16, 2016- Solar sidewalks? A startup is making energy-generating pavers that use durable recycled plastics to protect solar cells from foot traffic. Next plan: kinetic energy from footsteps. Learn More
  • House with solar panels
    Beautiful solar roofs that work like venetian blinds December 9, 2016- Elon Musk says SolarCity’s new roof tiles will use a “very durable plastic” film to create a venetian blind effect, so the sun reaches the solar cells but people see only beautiful tiles. Learn More
  • Police sniffer dog during a training exercise with sample packages
    Canine inspired safety December 2, 2016- Look what we learned from Fido! Scientists 3-D printed a plastic “nose” for bomb detectors, based on dog-inspired sniffing (rapid in-out sniffs). They say it works 16X better! Learn More
  • Thanksgiving Day Float
    Balloons and floats made possible by plastics November 23, 2016- It’s a parade! From gigantic floating polyurethane balloons to massive polystyrene foam turkeys, the iconic Thanksgiving Day parade is made possible by plastics. Learn More
  • A two year old little boy looking unhappily at the camera, in pain with his just treated broken arm, wearing and showing a blue taped plaster cast. Green background with copy space.
    3-D printed plastic cast to replace itchy plaster? November 18, 2016- No more itching? Companies are developing custom fit, 3-D printed plastic casts. Waterproof, lightweight, less likely to itch or smell. Measure, print, snap, done! Check it out... Learn More
  • megasus-horserunners-logo1
    A modern lucky horseshoe November 11, 2016- Taking horses out of the Iron Age? New plastic “runners” that replace traditional metal horseshoes are shock absorbing, allow greater hoof movement, and clip on/off. Image: Megasus Learn More
  • Garden
    White House garden + plastic “hoop” houses = winter veggies November 4, 2016- No politics. Just plants and plastics. Temperatures are dropping, so the White House garden will use plastic hoop houses (basically mini greenhouses) to keep veggies growing. Learn More
  • IOTW- Abdo Man
    Meet: AbdoMan, a 3-D printed model helping attack cancer October 28, 2016- Meet: AbdoMan, a 3-D printed model that allows doctors to visualize how radioactive plastic microspheres can attack liver tumors in cancer patients. Image: Inst. of Cancer Research Learn More
  • bendable concrete
    Add some plastic microfibers and... October 21, 2016- Bendable concrete? Researchers use tiny plastic microfibers – thinner than human hair – to make concrete for roads that is stronger, lighter, longer lasting, and flexible. Learn More
  • Children's imagination
    3-D printing plastics, medicine, food in space? October 14, 2016- Far out? Researchers are exploring ways to make plastics (even medicine, food) in space using 3-D printers and bacteria. Instead of flying stuff to Mars, maybe we can just make it there. Learn More
  • M-60 Army tank in battlefield.
    Tanks that can hide from enemies October 7, 2016- Plastics that turn tanks into chameleons? Using plastics that conduct electricity, researchers are developing camouflage for tanks that can change colors to match surroundings. Learn More
  • 3d printed bone
    3-D printed replacement bones? September 30, 2016- The future: print me a new bone! Scientists have developed a 3-D printed “hyperelastic bone,” a plastic composite that integrates into existing tissue to replace or help grow new bone Learn More
  • Pouch of trailmix
    New pouch can join bags, wraps in recycling bin September 23, 2016- Recycle! Dow’s new technology is used to make plastic pouches for granola, nuts, and other foods – pouches can be recycled with plastic wraps and bags at more than 18,000 US retail stores. Learn More
  • 24908624579_5dbaca36df_o
    Money that can survive the washing machine September 16, 2016- Bank of England is switching to plastic banknotes, saying they are “cleaner, safer, and stronger,” last 2.5 times longer, and eventually will be recycled into new plastic products. Learn More
  • Thirsty Man Drinking
    Wanted: moisture wicking, energy saving fabric September 9, 2016- Energy saving clothing? A new plastic fabric lets infrared radiation pass through it, which can significantly drop skin temperature. Instead of cooling the building… cool the person! Learn More
  • Wing of a Boeing 777-400ER over an ocean at sunrise
    Record setting 3-D printed object helps make airplane wings September 2, 2016- It’s a record! The largest 3-D printed object, a tool to help make Boeing’s 777X wings, is made from ABS plastic and carbon fiber. 3-D printing shaved three months off production time. Learn More
  • Recycle Home
    Entrepreneur + recycled plastics = affordable low income housing August 26, 2016- An award-winning entrepreneur in Columbia is building high quality, affordable housing for low income/homeless people using building materials made from recycled plastics. Learn More
  • Olympic stadium with running tracks
    Saving energy/cutting emissions at summer games August 19, 2016- Dow (“Official Carbon Sponsor of Rio 2016”) helped offset CO2 emissions this summer, in part by using energy-saving foam plastic insulation in the stadium and building construction. Learn More
  • Plastic composite planes + Facebook = Internet access August 12, 2016- To deliver Internet globally, Facebook will build planes with lightweight carbon fiber-reinforced plastics: solar powered, wider than Boeing 737, using power equal to 3 hair dryers. Learn More
  • award medal sport Olympiad
    Gold, silver, bronze hanging from recycled plastics August 5, 2016- The ribbons holding the medals that hang from the necks of the world’s great athletes this year are made from recycled plastic bottles that are woven into beautiful fabrics. Learn More
  • Woman looking through dirty clear film
    Powerful protective plastics July 29, 2016- Can nearly impermeable plastics help create low-cost renewable energy? A single-atom layer of graphene can help plastics protect sensitive solar cells – plus medicine, electronics… Learn More
  • Girl carrying a duffel bag made with plastic
    Creating travel bags from used plastics July 22, 2016- A new company uses recycled plastic bottles and repurposed vinyl signage to create durable travel bags… generating $ for Haitian companies, reducing waste, and cutting CO2 emissions. Learn More
  • Facing up businessman acting like a super hero and tearing his shirt off with luminous recycling symbol
    The superman of lumber July 15, 2015- Lighter than steel. Longer-lasting than lumber. Strong enough to support locomotives. And made from used milk jugs and coffee cups. It’s recycled plastic lumber! Learn More
  • A soccer ball in a stadium with a spot light on it
    Gooooooooal! World class soccer, world class ball July 8, 2016- Euro 2016’s soccer ball has five layers of polyurethane plastic from Covestro, designed for improved ball control, stable flight, and resistance to abrasions and water. Image: Adidas Learn More
  • Happy Asian woman smiling and laying on the towel after bath holding shampoo
    Every last drop of shampoo July 1, 2016- Researchers have figured out how to get every last drop of shampoo from its plastic bottle – a special coating lets the shampoo slide right out. And the bottle still is recyclable! Learn More
  • Indian little girl drinking fresh water, desert village, Rajasthan, India
    Lifesaving clean water is in the (plastic) bag June 24, 2016- Clean water for those who lack access ... from a plastic bag. Singapore-based WateROAM says its portable filtration system removes bacteria and other pathogens—without electricity. Learn More
  • Night time shot of bridge closed sign
    A warning sign to prevent disaster? June 17, 2016- To help identify structural damage to bridges, airplanes, pipelines, etc., researchers have developed a plastic coating that changes color when slightly cracked. Learn More
  • Friends outdoors at pub drinking beer
    Beer, Bruges, and a big pipe June 10, 2016- How to move millions of gallons of beer through medieval city of Bruges without trucks and traffic? Historic brewery’s answer: two miles of plastic pipe. Residents even helped fund it. Learn More
  • A rolled up firehose on the wet floor in a firestation used by firefighters
    From plastic fire hoses to hand bags June 3, 2016- Check out this company (one of many) that recycles used fire hoses – which are made with plastic fabrics and synthetic (plastic) rubber – into stylish tote bags, chairs, mats, and more. Learn More
  • Woman sitting in car smiling
    Car parts made out of thin air May 27, 2016- Ford plans to make foam plastic cushioning and car parts from carbon dioxide. Ford's CEO says “… this technology is enabling solutions that even two or three years ago weren’t possible.” Learn More
  • Spinal Fracture
    Expanding plastic bone graft to treat spinal injuries? May 20, 2016- Scientists at the Mayo Clinic are developing a biodegradable plastic bone graft that expands inside the body to replace bone—it could change the way doctors treat spinal injuries. Learn More
  • Solar Impulse 2
    Plastics help Solar Impulse 2 round the world May 13, 2016- Solar Impulse 2 is back in the air ... and in the U.S.! This solar powered aircraft is traveling around the world with help from lots of lightweight plastics in its body, insulation, window ... Learn More!
  • A technician testing film solar cells
    Solar energy everywhere? May 6, 2016- Researchers used plastics to create the thinnest, lightest solar cells ever – they potentially could be placed just about anywhere: your hat or shirt, a smartphone, spacecraft… Learn More
  • Zombie in the fog
    Fear ... made possible by plastics April 29, 2016- Zombies are all the rage. So what are those cool special effects made with? Plastics ... and other products of chemistry. Check out the bloody face makeup used in “The Walking Dead.” Learn More
  • Recylced plastic bench in public space
    From bottles to benches, fences, buildings ... April 22, 2016- “To transform Africa’s waste into wealth,” an award winning start up in Tanzania recycles used plastics into durable plastic lumber. Learn More
  • Rotterdam, Netherlands
    Rotterdam’s bridges get upgraded ... with plastics April 15, 2016- Rotterdam uses plastics to replace aging pedestrian bridges. City manager says bridges are lightweight, rustproof, low maintenance—and can be installed in an hour and last 100 years! Learn More
  • An Aedes canadensis mosquito is piercing human skin for a blood meal
    Fighting a pesky pest April 8, 2016- Researchers have developed a new mosquito trap—a small plastic vessel infused with insecticide—that may help fight the spread of the Zika virus and other mosquito borne diseases. Learn More
  • Grand Canyon Airlander
    No runway needed April 1, 2016- Aviation’s future? The world’s largest aircraft—made with tough plastics and carbon fiber-reinforced plastics—uses helium and can travel to new places, says Airlander 10’s maker. Learn More
  • Hands collecting water
    Pulling drinking water from the air? March 25, 2016- In parched areas of the world, intricate plastic fog harvesters today can provide running water for communities—and help end women’s daily treks for water. Learn More
  • Cholesterol plaque in artery
    It saves a life, then disappears March 11, 2016- An FDA panel has approved a plastic heart stent that does its job—which entails opening a heart blockage and dispensing medication—and then just dissolves completely over time. Learn More
  • Sunrise over the Earth
    Flying sky high with plastics February 26, 2016- What a view… a near-space exploration company plans to send intrepid travelers 20 miles above Earth in capsules suspended from high-altitude polyethylene plastic balloons. Learn More
  • Chinese woman woth cracked cell phone
    Hope for your cracked phone? February 19, 2016- Researchers are developing plastics that can repair themselves when damaged, which eventually might help everything from an airplane wing to a Mars Rover to your fragile cellphone. Learn More
  • Illustration of people running against green background
    Sneakers made from plastic bottles February 12 2016- These sneakers come in “green”? Nike uses recycled polyester plastic to make its lightweight Flyknit sneakers, diverting 182 million plastic bottles from landfills so far, says Nike. Learn More
  • Young boy playing with dinosaur toy
    What toy will you make today? February 5, 2016- Action figures, dolls, dinosaurs ... A new 3-D printer allows kids (and adults!) to create their own plastic toys—just download an app, design, and print. Learn More
  • Common octopus (Octopus vulgaris)
    What a cute little … cuddly robot? January 29, 2016- Inspired by octopuses, starfish, and caterpillars, scientists are leveraging advances in polymer science to create soft, squishy robots that can stretch, twist, scrunch, and touch. Learn More
  • Illustration of hands holding a plastic container
    Packaging made from greenhouse gases January 22, 2016- Plastics from thin air? Personal care company The Body Shop plans to package its popular body butter products in plastic containers made from captured greenhouse gas emissions. Learn More
  • Illustration of home with the recycling symbol
    Low-cost housing made with recycled plastics January 15, 2016- A startup company in Mexico is trying to put a dent in the country’s trash problems—and poverty—by building low-cost houses made with used/recycled plastics. Learn More
  • Green and white beads
    Plants + chemistry = plastics January 8, 2015- A new renewable source for plastics? DuPont and ADM teamed up to develop a chemical compound from plant fructose that can be used to make plastics and textiles. Learn More
  • Mighty roots of a majestic beech tree
    Plastics protect majestic trees January 1, 2016- For a better environment and safer walking, some cities are installing pavers made of recycled plastics over sprawling roots of mature trees to stave off unwanted, costly tree removal. Learn More