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Plastic Made From Fruit Rivals Kevlar In Strength

samzenpus posted about 3 years ago | from the protecting-yourself-with-fresh-fruit dept.

Science 181

jldailey618 writes "A group of scientists from Sao Paulo State University developed a way to use the nanocellulose fibers from bananas, pineapples, and other fruits to create incredibly strong, lightweight plastics. The plastic is up to four times stronger and 30 percent lighter than petroleum-based plastics, and it rivals Kevlar — the material used in bullet proof vests — in strength."

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181 comments

Officer! (2)

cvtan (752695) | about 3 years ago | (#35672878)

The perp shot me with a gun made of pineapples, but luckily I was saved by my banana. (First or nearly first post is no guarantee of quality.)

Re:Officer! (4, Funny)

Mister Transistor (259842) | about 3 years ago | (#35672930)

But what if he comes at you with a Pointed Stick?

Re:Officer! (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#35673092)

Im not worried about sticks, But fruit peelers would scare the crap out of me.

Re:Officer! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#35673122)

it makes no sense to put some fruity on me pointy stikk, humie! WAAAAAGH!

Re:Officer! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#35673808)

You shot him!

Well, I guess Apple (0, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#35672888)

Really is going to become a fruit company.

Hah.

Re:Well, I guess Apple (1)

clang_jangle (975789) | about 3 years ago | (#35673294)

That's "fruit-derived", you insensitive Claude!

Re:Well, I guess Apple (1)

PopeRatzo (965947) | about 3 years ago | (#35673692)

That's "fruit-derived", you insensitive Claude!

There's already a fruit doing the deriving.

But there's no telling how much longer he'll be in the deriver's seat.

What else is in it? (4, Interesting)

cromar (1103585) | about 3 years ago | (#35672926)

The article says that one pound of nanocellulose can be used to produce 100 pounds of the plastic. So what else is in it? Maybe it's a journalistic error, but it would seem that that violates physical law...

Re:What else is in it? (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#35672964)

>> So what else is in it?

About 99 pounds of plastic I suppose. lol

Re:What else is in it? (2, Informative)

TubeSteak (669689) | about 3 years ago | (#35673056)

The article says that one pound of nanocellulose can be used to produce 100 pounds of the plastic. So what else is in it? Maybe it's a journalistic error, but it would seem that that violates physical law...

Ever heard of an alloy?
=1% is more than enough to effect a change in metals or plastics.

Re:What else is in it? (1, Funny)

Evi1M4chine (2029370) | about 3 years ago | (#35673536)

You missed the question. I’ll quote Al here:

Kelly enters in her waitress outfit and hangs up her coat.
KELLY) Daddy, I'm afraid I have some bad news for you.
AL) Oh, Pumpkin, that can't be! The horror with the scope here [looks over at Peggy] says "Good luck's a-comin'"!
KELLY) The Health Inspector's closing down the diner for two days.
PEGGY) Well, that's not so bad.
KELLY) Then they're tearing it down. [sits on couch] Can you believe it? I'm unemployed. And it's all because of those stupid raisin cookies.
AL) What, the raisin cookies you were getting me free everyday?
KELLY) Yeah. You know, it turns out that only half the raisins were actually raisins.
Al looks at her.
AL) Well, what was the other half!?
KELLY) Oh, believe me, Daddy, you do not want to know!
Al makes a oh-fuck-no face.
KELLY) Oh well. I guess I'm out of a J-O-D.
AL) Oh well, I guess you won't have enough money to move O-U-L.
KELLY) Not necessarily. It seems that one of people at the extermination company whichdeloused me, remembered me as the Verminator a couple of years ago and want me to be their new local mascot. Now, here's the part that's important to you, Dad.
AL)You're going to tell me what the other half of those raisins were??
KELLY) Can't, Daddy. The guys at the Atomic Energy Commission said that mom's the word on this one. [Al makes a horrified going-crazy face] But the good news is, I'll be making more money than I did at the diner and will be able to move out sooner than I thought! Well, I better get busy. I'm under court order to burn this uniform.

So: What are the other 99 pounds?

Re:What else is in it? (3, Interesting)

Thing 1 (178996) | about 3 years ago | (#35673780)

The article says that one pound of nanocellulose can be used to produce 100 pounds of the plastic. So what else is in it? Maybe it's a journalistic error, but it would seem that that violates physical law...

I really liked the topical Married With Children response (the other half of the raisins came from Japan?), but I think the simple answer is it's a reading comprehension, or writer overly compressing the message, issue: one pound of nanocellulose is used, but it is not the only ingredient; the important sentence ends the sixth paragraph: "These fibers can be added to other raw materials to produce reinforced plastic."

I also really liked the linked article in the fourth paragraph, about Ford exploring nanotechnology to get their vehicles' weight down. Competition will get us to the Singularity faster!

Re:What else is in it? (1)

oliverthered (187439) | about 3 years ago | (#35674028)

well you stare at a banana long enough for 1 pound of nanocellulose to come out of it, add some hot air vapor.. BOOM!!!!! 100 pounds of the plastic

Re:What else is in it? (2)

mrmeval (662166) | about 3 years ago | (#35674444)

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nanocellulose [wikipedia.org]

Old news. This has been known since the late 70s. It's terribly energy intensive. The material costs 30MWh to produce with some methods getting that down to 1MWh but with more complex processes.

I don't see anything that indicates an improvement in the process in that article that would make the material more cost effective or live up to the potentials mentioned in the wikipee article. It looks like the typical article meant to gather research money and it's been picked up because of the presentation made at the chemical groups exposition.

Re:What else is in it? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#35674750)

Maybe it is a shift of priorities that is the news, I don't know? Sometimes(not always) the linked article has further information than what you might imagine.

Food Shortage (1)

Gohtar (1829140) | about 3 years ago | (#35672932)

First it was corn, now pineapple and bananas.... Just great, hopefully no live stock live off of these fruits.

Re:Food Shortage (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#35672982)

There's a reason we invented edible oil products.
This new tech could give a whole new meaning to "potato gun", though.

Re:Food Shortage (2)

vintagepc (1388833) | about 3 years ago | (#35672996)

And where there's no shortage, everyone gets to pay inflated prices!! Let's hope they don't catch on you can make (albeit poor) plastic from MILK! [instructables.com]

Re:Food Shortage (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#35673000)

I don't think we eat the part of the banana with cellulose fibers in it. I presume that they come from the peel. From a pineapple, presumably from the core and those obnoxious spiky leaves. But that is admittedly a guess.

I'm more worried about that 99 pound discrepancy.

Re:Food Shortage (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#35673584)

Pineapples aren't a staple crop, so I don't think there would ever be a huge problem there. Plantains on the other hand...

Re:Food Shortage (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#35673874)

I believe commercial bananas have been so genetically altered from the wild tree that the banana plant is now sterile, It has to be pulled out and re-grown after each banana harvest. If this technology makes use of the leaves and stems then it sounds lik a win-win.

Banana phone (4, Funny)

zill (1690130) | about 3 years ago | (#35672988)

Ring ring ring ring ring ring ring, Banana phone. (now made out of REAL bananas)

Re:Banana phone (1)

CrazyJim1 (809850) | about 3 years ago | (#35673774)

It was bad enough we had EM scares from cell phones, you want to hold radiation to your head now too?

Industrial hemp (5, Interesting)

narcc (412956) | about 3 years ago | (#35673002)

We've been able to make all sorts of materials from plant fibers for years, including plastic.

As an added bonus, many of those materials are both incredibly strong and bio-degradable. Take a look at hemp plastic -- one of the many reasons to support industrial hemp.

Re:Industrial hemp (1)

Mashiki (184564) | about 3 years ago | (#35673066)

Nah. The US doesn't like anything dealing with pot...I mean hemp. But up here in Canada, we don't mind it a single bit. In fact I usually start my day with a couple of tablespoons of hemp hearts on my cereal or oatmeal.

Re:Industrial hemp (5, Interesting)

theshowmecanuck (703852) | about 3 years ago | (#35673106)

When I did some work in the Philippines I had to go to a function where the president was going to attend, so went out and bought a high end barong (type of Philippine shirt). These were used in place of tuxedos (yes we wore pants too). The barong was made of banana fibre and was quite expensive (several hundred dollars at the time). I still have it. The interesting thing is that is does feel kid of plasticy and slippery. The fabric is partially see through (you wear a white tee shirt under it) and kind of stiff. Because of this, this article doesn't surprise me one bit.

Re:Industrial hemp (3, Interesting)

Max Littlemore (1001285) | about 3 years ago | (#35673476)

I had a shirt made of eucalypt that was very light, plasticy feeling and hard wearing.

The thing I found most odd about it wasn't that such a synthetic feeling fabric came from a plant, but that I live in Australia where eucalypts originate and the shirt was made in China most probably from Chinese eucalypt plantations, being the largest in the world.

I would like to see more done with eucalypts for plastics. They are a great source of celulose and other goodies, grow quickly without needing much water and they are not a valuable food source like bananas, corn and pineapple. And there's a reason we call them gum trees.

Re:Industrial hemp (1)

narcc (412956) | about 3 years ago | (#35673696)

Neat. I haven't heard about eucalyptus being used this way before. Thanks for that.

That's great (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#35673008)

now Brazil can have bulletproof bandeau tops and pasties!

Is that a banana in your pocket (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#35673014)

or a super-strength codpiece?

Sand People (1)

kaoshin (110328) | about 3 years ago | (#35673024)

That small weight makes a big difference for swoop racers, but will it stop a slug from a tusken cycler rifle?

Oh, great! (1)

sanermind (512885) | about 3 years ago | (#35673054)

Biodegradable cellulosic based car parts? I can't wait until I leave my new car out in the rain for two weeks, and fungus starts growing on my bumpers, the same as it grows on the fallen trees next to where I park.

Re:Oh, great! (1)

Muros (1167213) | about 3 years ago | (#35673682)

I was thinking exactly the same thing myself. Recycleable plastics made from plants, sure. Sounds good. Rots when left lying about.... if we're talking multiple decades, again, sure. If we're talking less than 3-4 times the expected lifetime of the manufactured item, no.

Fruit Plastics (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#35673078)

...And when the fighting's over you can relax with a lovely fruit salad.

Better quiet down (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#35673084)

The last time someone tried to compete with DuPont with a cheap and available material, they lobbied congress to ban the material, which they did.

I for one do not wish to have bananas, pineapples, or any other fruit be classified as a schedule I controlled substance.

Re:Better quiet down (0)

quiet down (1795010) | about 3 years ago | (#35673142)

Would you happen to know what the material is?
I don't think the government would ban the material itself if this happened, but instead ban the finished product. Still, this seems highly unlikely

Re:Better quiet down (5, Informative)

Ambassador Kosh (18352) | about 3 years ago | (#35673386)

The material they banned was industrial hemp. They made it illegal to grow it under the guise of going after marijuana. Even though you could set an entire field of industrial hemp on fire and not get high they still managed to get it and marijuana covered under the same law and banned.

Re:Better quiet down (-1, Flamebait)

c6gunner (950153) | about 3 years ago | (#35673864)

The material they banned was industrial hemp.

Technically, no. Your pothead buddy claimed that DuPont got hemp banned - a favorite lie of hippies and other assorted idiots. Also, industrial hemp isn't technically banned, even in the US - you can get a permit to grow it (it's just really hard to get one).

They made it illegal to grow it under the guise of going after marijuana. Even though you could set an entire field of industrial hemp on fire and not get high they still managed to get it and marijuana covered under the same law and banned.

That's a bit of a red-herring. Nobody ever suggested you could smoke hemp - the issue was that hemp fields made the ideal hiding spot for pot cultivation. Right now they get hidden in corn-fields and such, but tend to be relatively easy to spot from the air; you could grow millions of dollars worth of marijuana in a hemp field, and nobody would know unless they did a detailed ground-level inspection.

Note that I'm generally in favor of legalizing marijuana - I'm just apposed to lies and distortions.

Re:Better quiet down (5, Insightful)

Nyder (754090) | about 3 years ago | (#35674228)

The material they banned was industrial hemp.

Technically, no. Your pothead buddy claimed that DuPont got hemp banned - a favorite lie of hippies and other assorted idiots. Also, industrial hemp isn't technically banned, even in the US - you can get a permit to grow it (it's just really hard to get one).

They made it illegal to grow it under the guise of going after marijuana. Even though you could set an entire field of industrial hemp on fire and not get high they still managed to get it and marijuana covered under the same law and banned.

That's a bit of a red-herring. Nobody ever suggested you could smoke hemp - the issue was that hemp fields made the ideal hiding spot for pot cultivation. Right now they get hidden in corn-fields and such, but tend to be relatively easy to spot from the air; you could grow millions of dollars worth of marijuana in a hemp field, and nobody would know unless they did a detailed ground-level inspection.

Note that I'm generally in favor of legalizing marijuana - I'm just apposed to lies and distortions.

Not sure what planet your from, but nothing is banned.

It's a controlled substance, hence you can get a license to grow it. Industrial hemp, or medicial marijuana. I repeat for you, a non stoner, who don't know exactly what you are talking about, NOTHING GOT BANNED.

When they got "industrial hemp" and "medical marijuana" changed into a controlled substance, they (being the corporation who just got the chemical formula's from germany, as part of WWI reparitians.), because plastic would NOT compete with the low cost and usuablility of hemp at the time. They purposely made it seem that it was marijuana they were trying to get contolled, when it was actually hemp they wanted out of the picture.

You an find all the info, include actual copies of official documents on how this happened here: http://www.jackherer.com/thebook/ [jackherer.com]

Here's online hosting of the book: http://www.onlinepot.org/grow/jackherer.htm [onlinepot.org]

I have nothing to do with those sites or the book. I'm just an american who's tired of the lies and bullshit. And corporation being treated like they are the rich, since they rarely, and i mean, rarely get in trouble for the shit they do.

Oh, and i like to point out, yes, it was Dupont. So those hippies and other idiots who you think lie (probably because they are stoners), aren't. In fact, your the idiot now, but then, we knew that from your post. thanks for letting me share the real story.

Re:Better quiet down (1)

Nefarious Wheel (628136) | about 3 years ago | (#35674582)

A fairly interesting discussion of the politics surrounding the banning of hemp can be found in an early Allan Ginsberg book "The Marijuana Papers". The Congresscritter most deeply involved was a gent named Harry J. Ainslinger. If you search the Congressional Record around the 1930's or so you might be able to trace his arguments.

Re:Better quiet down (0, Flamebait)

c6gunner (950153) | about 3 years ago | (#35674766)

Not sure what planet your from, but nothing is banned.

So you agree with what I said, then ask me what planet I'm from. How many bowls have you smoked today?

They purposely made it seem that it was marijuana they were trying to get contolled, when it was actually hemp they wanted out of the picture.

lol. Yeah. And Larry Silverstein blew up the world trade center. Have another joint!

You an find all the info, include actual copies of official documents on how this happened here: http://www.jackherer.com/thebook/ [jackherer.com] [jackherer.com]

Sorry, don't have time to flip through another pothead conspiracy-theory book. Feel free to paste some excerpts.

Oh, and i like to point out, yes, it was Dupont.

[citation needed]

(no, not another pothead site. if you can't at least get wikipedia on your side, you should give up.)

Re:Better quiet down (1)

Xachariah (995669) | about 3 years ago | (#35674210)

You don't need to worry about anything, because our government wouldn't be so silly because Dole, Chiquita, and Del Monte are invested in Bananas and are just as ruthless.

Hurray for American democracy. If you can't trust politicians to serve your best interest, at least you can trust corporations to protect themselves.

Re:Better quiet down (2)

Max Littlemore (1001285) | about 3 years ago | (#35673512)

Hemp. Not the zany stuff hippies smoke, the low THC variety that is unpleasant to smoke but produces lots of oil and fiber in a really short time with minimal resource usage.

Re:Better quiet down (2, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#35673794)

Not only does it have an extremely low THC content, but it also contains another cannabinol (I can't remember the name) that actually prevents you from getting high from THC.

Another big argument is that if industrial hemp were to be legalized, farmers could easily conceal marijuana within industrial hemp fields. This is very far from the truth. Industrial hemp and marijuana plants will cross pollinate (even if the fields are miles apart). The cross pollination renders the marijuana completely useless as a drug. You would end up with a field of industrial hemp, and a field of marijuana that has no value on the drug market and is less useful than industrial hemp for practical purposes.

Re:Better quiet down - Too late (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#35673842)

Why? CO2 basically is

Nano-sandwich (1)

mfnickster (182520) | about 3 years ago | (#35673154)

I, for one, welcome our new nano-nana overlords!

All the same, really? (2)

macraig (621737) | about 3 years ago | (#35673218)

Petroleum was once (partly) fruits, too, eh? It's not a bad thing if we can sidestep the tens of millions of years in between and do it without massive energies or pressures. Same thing goes for fuel, of course, but I'm not holding my breath for biofuels, yet....

Re:All the same, really? (1)

Evi1M4chine (2029370) | about 3 years ago | (#35673872)

Biofuels are about the most retarded thing, since a tricycle with four-wheel drive or a water-tight sun dial.
Let's... now sit down and prepare yourself for that level of stupidity... take our food... put it through a expensive resource-eating process... and burn the result into highly toxic environmental pollution.
Whoever came up with that fuckin' great idea?? It’s like a joke in which Dick Cheney is told to come up with a system that's even more stupid and evil than using fossil fuels.
Cause you got to literally have a empty hole in your chest where your heart should be, to come up with that level of evilness!

</Lewis Black>

Re:All the same, really? (1)

rubycodez (864176) | about 3 years ago | (#35674214)

Lewis didn't get the memo about plants that grow like crazy on non-farmable scrubland that yield 500% or more the useful alcohol of corn. Switchgrass, it's what's for dinner, if you're cattle.

herd about the new even older new bible? (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#35673268)

is this whack? texted from jc, the last days? epic? books, movies, pageants, maybe even some flashier thou shalts for a change? couldn't cover what's happened since then, as the savior would have gone remodel the first time one of the chosen ones even touched one of us less chosen 'funny''? he's got a pension for showing up in a timeless manner? in an endless/always almost the end of time sort of way? isn't there a chapter where we're granted more time to learn to suffer in gratitude/tithe better (nail biting/), get ready to die, again, stuff like that? this is absolutely unbelievable? our reward?

right on yahoo news. forget it. we're all on our knees all night tonight. as for the increasing holycost? it's likely profitsized in the new/older/newer word of the cave dweller so as to be a definite shalt.

"British archaeologists are seeking to authenticate what could be a landmark discovery in the documentation of early Christianity: a trove of 70 lead codices that appear to date from the 1st century CE, which may include key clues to the last days of Jesus' life. As UK Daily Mail reporter Fiona Macrae writes, some researchers are suggesting this could be the most significant find in Christian archeology since the Dead Sea scrolls in 1947.
The codices turned up five years ago in a remote cave in eastern Jordan—a region where early Christian believers may have fled after the destruction of the Temple in Jerusalem in 70 CE. The codices are made up of wirebound individual pages, each roughly the size of a credit card. They contain a number of images and textual allusions to the Messiah, as well as some possible references to the crucifixion and resurrection. Some of the codices were sealed, prompting yet more breathless speculation that they could include the sealed book, shown only to the Messiah, mentioned in the Book of Revelation. One of the few sentences translated thus far from the texts, according to the BBC, reads, "I shall walk uprightly"--a phrase that also appears in Revelation. "While it could be simply a sentiment common in Judaism," BBC writer Robert Pigott notes, "it could here be designed to refer to the resurrection."
But the field of biblical archaeology is also prey to plenty of hoaxes and enterprising fraudsters, so investigators are proceeding with due empirical caution. Initial metallurgical research indicates that the codices are about 2,000 years old--based on the manner of corrosion they have undergone, which, as Macrae writes, "experts believe would be impossible to achieve artificially."

The circle of life continues (3, Interesting)

MrEricSir (398214) | about 3 years ago | (#35673274)

We already have fruit made from plastic. So why not make plastic from fruit? That way the circle of life continues indefinitely.

Strong or tough? (5, Insightful)

wagnerrp (1305589) | about 3 years ago | (#35673332)

Is strong really the correct term to use here? People think of kevlar being strong because it's used to stop bullets, but they're really completely wrong. Sure, it's stronger than steel, but not as strong as fiberglass or carbon fiber. You use kevlar in armor because it is tough, toughness being defined by the area under the stress/strain curve. It can absorb more energy than any other material. If it's as strong as kevlar, well then there are plenty of other natural and synthetic fibers that are just as capable, and this is nothing impressive. If it's as tough as kevlar, well then there is something of significant interest here.

Re:Strong or tough? (1)

toQDuj (806112) | about 3 years ago | (#35673938)

indeed, one of the reasons to use it is the low elongation at break, and the relatively high stress at breakage. Some have suggested using spider silk for bulletproof vests, and indeed it would stop the bullet... just several meters on the other side of your body. more in the introduction of my thesis http://bit.ly/gfPdDN [bit.ly]

Kevlar is not really very strong - it's tough (5, Informative)

dbIII (701233) | about 3 years ago | (#35673360)

Kevlar is a very useful nylon-like polymer because it's tough. What the means is that it can absorb a lot of energy before it breaks. It can't hold up a lot of weight (so not strong) but if you hit it very hard it flexes instead of breaking. That is why it is useful in bullet proof vests because you want to spread the impact and absorb the energy before it gets to your body. Toughness is a function of how much things can stretch together with strength -eg. rubber with low strength and a lot of elongation can absorb a lot more energy than glass with high strength and nearly no elongation.
By volume Kevlar is nowhere near as strong as mild steel so a 10mm diameter rod of the stuff is not going to be able to suspend anywhere near as much weight as a 10mm diameter rod of mild steel. It doesn't weigh much though so you might be able to make something out of 1kg of Kevlar that can take as much load as 1kg of mild steel.
It's very strong for a plastic (think of nylon fishing line - it's like that but stronger) but plastics are not very strong materials unless you reinforce them with something that is such as glass or graphite fibre.

Re:Kevlar is not really very strong - it's tough (4, Informative)

toQDuj (806112) | about 3 years ago | (#35673948)

Except that kevlar and other aramid fibres are almost entirely unlike nylon or dyneema. The structure is completely different, the aramid fibres can withstand high temperatures whereas the nylon fibres cannot (different chemistry), and the manufacturing process is completely different.

Second point: the aramid fibres have a very small elongation (strain) at break, and can hold a large amount of stress. Indeed, on a per weight basis, they are "stronger" than steel, by volume, it is not so good. However, they do not exhibit much creep (but nylon does!) and do not suffer from effects of prolonged loading.

Lastly, they do not bend well, and they cannot handle sharp edges so well because of that. Interestingly, you can get two kinds of protective vests with different weaves: one bulletproof type and one knifeproof type. the knifeproof vest is not bulletproof and vice versa.

You may want to consider reading the introduction to my Ph.D. thesis (or its references) on this material as it appears you may be slightly misinformed. You can get it here: http://bit.ly/gfPdDN [bit.ly]

Re:Kevlar is not really very strong - it's tough (1)

dbIII (701233) | about 3 years ago | (#35674158)

on a per weight basis, they are "stronger" than steel, by volume

See my post above for exactly the same thing.

Re:Kevlar is not really very strong - it's tough (0)

toQDuj (806112) | about 3 years ago | (#35674248)

your post screams "dyneema", not "kevlar". That I agree with one aspect of your post does not indicate my comments are redundant.

Re:Kevlar is not really very strong - it's tough (1)

dbIII (701233) | about 3 years ago | (#35674440)

I was attempting to explain it all in very general terms with materials the general public can identify and didn't expect to get labelled "misinformed" for doing so :(
Initially I thought the redundancy showed you hadn't bothered to read the entire short post before putting me in my place. I'm probably wrong on both counts.
Other than that, thanks for the link that supplies more detail.

Re:Kevlar is not really very strong - it's tough (2)

toQDuj (806112) | about 3 years ago | (#35674508)

Sorry for sounding curt.. I guess it was the "nylon-like" mention that kickstarted my inner chemical engineer. Also I have not yet had my second coffee today, so I too realize I made a mistake when referring to "spider-silk" in another comment without indicating that spiders spin a large variety of silk.

As for educating the public, that is a commendable goal and it seems to me like we could use some of that! I also get the impression that many believe that after they finish their education, they are no longer in need of more education and ready to educate more offspring.

Re:Kevlar is not really very strong - it's tough (1)

Kakari (1818872) | about 3 years ago | (#35674242)

Where does 'spectra (UHMWPE, as I understand it)' fiber fall in these? I have often heard of it referred to as artificial spider's silk and could potentially be used as a thin bullet resistant lining (i.e. you will probably have broken bones and a wound, but would still be alive). I presume you would be able to provide more information on this fiber and the validity of that claim.

Re:Kevlar is not really very strong - it's tough (1)

toQDuj (806112) | about 3 years ago | (#35674354)

the UHMWPE fibres as Spectra and Dyneema are high-modulus fibres, so their strain (extension) is small when stress (load) is applied. This makes for good bulletproof material in principle. The problems with these materials are that they show creep (they gradually extend when a constant load is applied), and that their good properties reduce dramatically at elevated temperatures.

"Spider silk" is a bit of a misnomer as spiders produce a great variety of silk threads, some have high and some low modulus. The "spokes" generally have high modulus, whereas the "rings" have low modulus and are very elastic. So in order to validate their claim, they need to identify which silk they are talking about.

Just what we need! (2)

Zephiris (788562) | about 3 years ago | (#35673456)

Bullet Proof Banana Hammocks Made Out of Bananas.

On a serious note, a lot of 'projects' seem to come out like this one, but very few ever seem to make it to commercial scale and distribution, let alone success and continued survival. "Alternative" tech never seems to sell, quite possibly because it's 'alternative', and the big boys have enough cash to make most things go away that would cut into their profits, like that pesky cold fusion.

Re:Just what we need! (1)

demonlapin (527802) | about 3 years ago | (#35673784)

enough cash to make most things go away that would cut into their profits

I'm not going to say that's never happened, but if it's cheaper and/or better than the existing products, why wouldn't the big boys take the huge PR benefit of being "renewable", save a ton on industrial-scale production, and leverage the advantages of their existing product distribution networks to make more money?

Re:Just what we need! (1)

Zephiris (788562) | about 3 years ago | (#35673830)

Tens of billions (or more) invested into what they already have. The notion of "looking stupid" is pretty powerful as far as what companies will and won't do.
Something has to have a lot of momentum and stick around long enough to start moving the granite boulder.

Materials science and fruitcake (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#35673482)

Imagine a fruitcake made from this plastic! It could contain antimatter!
 

Arthur C Clarke for the win! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#35673566)

IIRC, his space elevator book, The Fountains Of Paradise, mentioned superstrong ropes made of bananas.

Avatar (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#35673642)

Am I the only one thinking this sounds very Avatar like?

Problem with repurposing food (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#35673716)

The only difficulty with this development is if banana and pineapple acreage is taken out of production for food and used for these plastics instead. There's a food crisis in much of the world, and it's only been exacerbated by the diversion of corn to ethanol. Bananas and pineapples aren't staples in the same way corn is, but this would still potentially mean less food to go around.

Re:Problem with repurposing food (2)

AndOne (815855) | about 3 years ago | (#35674046)

They're using the stems and leaves of the plants. As in the left over parts after food is processed. They can also use the plants that rot in the field or don't make the grade for edibility I'd imagine. There was word of Pepsi switching its bottling process over to use plastics made out of the leftover plant matter from their food processing plants a few weeks ago. I imagine this would be much the same and not like the corn based ethonal boondoggle.

Oh great... (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#35673876)

I have just about lost an eye and bled out removing things from their sealed plastic packages. Now you're telling me they're going to be able to use plastic as strong as Kevlar? I give up.

Bullet RESISTANT vest (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#35673934)

A bullet PROOF vest is a mythical item. Any of the body armor out there that begins to qualify as bullet proof, can hardly be considered a vest.

Re:Bullet RESISTANT vest (1)

rubycodez (864176) | about 3 years ago | (#35674162)

There are no bullet proof body armors either, in the absolute sense. Name a product and i'll tell you what bullet at standard loading will penetrate it.

Probably bogus (2)

Animats (122034) | about 3 years ago | (#35674846)

These frequent "big materials breakthrough" articles really should wait until they've been reviewed in some publication that knows something about the subject, like Chemical Engineering News. The paper, "Agro-waste nanocomposites for automotive applications" [acs.org] , presented at the American Chemical Society is available. The claims there aren't as strong as the ones in the press release. Last year, the same author presented "Agro-Wastes Nanocomposites for Medical Application". Wonder what happened to that.

The trouble with many of these "new materials" is that they have some awful flaw. This one, for example, is "biodegradable". That means it rots. That's OK for packaging, but not for parts. Then there are basic questions, like will it tolerate water? Can it be made into thread, sheet, or film? Made at a reasonable cost?

There's been interest in finding useful things to make out of cellulose for the last century. There's so much agricultural waste around, and it would be nice to use it for something. Most of the ideas don't work out, but people keep trying.

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