Developments to Watch
SUPERTOUGH PLASTICS THAT GO EASY ON THE BUDGET
Soft-drink bottles and other injection-molded plastic parts are cheap to make but can't withstand high pressure or heat. Thermoplastics are much more rugged but far costlier. Now, Hoechst Celanese Corp. has come up with a polymer that combines the best of both kinds of plastics.
Based on the company's Celazole polybenzimidazole, the new "T-series" resins can handle pressures up to 32,000 pounds per square inch and temperatures up to 619F, just a shade below the best similar resins. Yet unlike thermoplastic parts that must be machined from a solid block, these can be injection-molded or extruded into complex shapes in high volumes. Lorenzo P. DiSano, a Hoechst Celanese technical marketing and development manager, estimates the cost of making a small electrical insulator using the new polymer would be half the cost of a thermoplastic part. "For small parts, machining becomes a huge part of the overall cost," he says.
So far, the polymer has been used in aerospace and oil-field applications, such as in safety valves atop oil rigs. DiSano sees future uses in such auto parts as piston rings and brake components, which require light weight, hardness, low friction, high strength, and stability amid high temperatures.EDITED BY FLEUR TEMPLETON