Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Perfect Fluidity

I ran across an eye-opening report this week, "Nearly perfect fluidity: from cold atomic gases to hot quark gluon plasmas". Not exactly the area that I normally work in although I have mentioned before that subatomic physics can contribute to polymer science. Instead it the abstract that got me to start reading the article.

Liquid viscosity drops with increasing temperature, while gas viscosity increases with temperature. This means that for a fluid, there is a minimum viscosity, probably in a supercritical region. One way to scale viscosity across fluids is with the kinematic viscosity (h/n, h is the viscosity, n is the density) but density is hard to measure/define for the quark gluon plasmas (I'll just have to take the authors word on it) so a better option is divide by the entropy, s. And then using string theory (which we all know is better called "the string hypothesis" since its never been tested), it's proposed that h/s >= h-bar/(4pkb), (kb is Boltzmann's constant). So there we have it - an absolute lower limit for viscosity.

Water at 226 bar and 650 K is still well above the limit, but that doesn't surprise me given the strongly associative nature of H2O molecules. 4He gets much closer at 2.2 bars and 5.1 K, but the champ is the quark gluon plasma at conditions of 880 x 1032 bar and 2 x 1012 K. The rest of the article is mostly in the realm of exotic physics, at which point I returned to my regularly scheduled reading. I'm not going to run a those conditions in any extruders.

Monday, November 16, 2009

It's Monday. I need a good laugh...

and found it here:

"One of my favorite thinkers, Will McDonough, is the leading thinker of ecological architecture. Among other achievements, he rebuilt the famed River Rouge plant of Ford, the very model of a modern major assembly line, into a sustainable model with pavers instead of asphalt, natural lighting, and grass on the roof. He is urging a technology cycle similar to a biological cycle, where manufactured products can reduce back into the ecosystem. An example is to redo plastics based on organic carbon, not petrochemicals. These plastics look and feel like petro-plastics, and yet dissolve when thrown away.The whole plastics industry can transform itself into a new range of products." (Emphasis added.)

Wow!! Organic plastics! What a concept.

Another wow!! They "dissolve". They just go away. All the mass is just gone. It's not like they would "dissolve" into CO2 or anything. And somehow they know when they've been thrown away. Too smart for me.

Monday, November 09, 2009

How NOT to Introduce a Product

Scrolling through the chemical headlines, a ran across one in Chemical Week which mentions that Total has a new metallocene catalyst available. The article is pay-access only (as is most often the case with Chemical Week, that's fine, I don't have a problem with that). Being that metallocene catalysts are a only a curiosity for me and not something that I actively work with (except for whatever scraps are stuck in the PE that we process), I'm not going to buy this one, but I could read enough to know that they are calling the catalyst Lumicene. Googling "Lumicene PE" gets 21 hits total, only 2 of which are relevant, and guess what site they are on??

Chemical Week.

So Total is introducing a new product, but the only way to find out about it is to have to pay money to a third party. Doesn't this strike you as...........wrong?

Bilski is on the SCOTUS docket today

As mentioned previously, Bilski will be heard by the Supreme Court. Today is the the day, but the decision won't come down for months.

The case concerns an issued patent over a business method (regarding the use of hedges) and whether it is patentable matter. In the narrowest sense, the case is rather boring. I think the patent claims are poorly written and should be rejected, but the real question that isn't written on any brief before the court, is how widely the court will expand their decision. Many contend that it could be so expansive as to be the death knell for all software patents. I can't see it going that far as Congress has already clearly stated that they would like as many things patentable as possible.

Right now the Court of Appeals has establish a "bright line" rule that all patents must show a physical or machine transformation, and they like the test as it is cut and dry - no judgment is needed. This was also the case a couple of years ago when the KSR case came up on deciding what is (non)obvious - that unless there was specific written words describing or predicting what was in the application, it was considered nonobvious. Also a bright line test, but one that was thrown out. I suspect the same will happen here - the bright line test will be tossed and judgment will be needed.

The issue is (somewhat) personal to me as I did in the past apply for such a patent (WO/2001/092840), although it was dropped after my employer killed the program, so it never issued.

No matter what the outcome, the lawyers (even the one unhappy with the decision) will be happy as there will be lots more to argue about in the future. (Something that you and I know very well, something that they know very well, but not something that they know that we know very well.)

Tier 1 Auto Suppliers are doing o.k. enough

Lear is coming out of bankruptcy, rather quickly, as are a lot of other supplies. The link has some good stats about the health of the auto supply industry in general. Very few Chapter 7 filings (going out of business) and lots of Chapter 11 filings (reorganization of debt). There is still plenty of pain and job losses, but it could be worse for an industry totally ignored by a government that was willing to do anything to keep the Big 3 going, a government totally unaware that the manufacturers do high level assembly of systems and subsystems built by others. I expected worse.

Maybe they were hoping for a trickle down effect - the opposite of what they were hoping in the housing market with a "first time buyer" tax credit, which now has been broadened to anyone moving up in the market. Not enough trickle, I guess, and certainly car sales have slumped since the cash-for clunkers program expired.

Friday, November 06, 2009

This could get ugly

According to Plastics News (11/2/09), ASTM is looking to change the SPI recycling codes that appear on many plastics parts, such as:

Possible candidates for getting their own identify are polycarbonate (why bother if the BPA scare is going to put this plastic away?) polylactic acid (since all the PET recyclers hate the mixed streams), and LLDPE. They are also thinking of tightening up the definitions for each resin so that only a certain % of a coating can be on the bottle.

I certainly do understand that these polymers need to be kept separate. They are thoroughly incompatible with each other not only thermodynamically, but also in processing temperatures, drying requirements, screw design, die design... The only way to avoid those issues is to incinerate them all. The flames don't care. They are an equal opportunity oxidizer.

But this could rapidly go the way of stainless steel, aluminum and other metals. For steels, you have the 300 series, the 400 series, etc. Even with something like 316 SS, you can also have 316L (low carbon) and 316 LS (surgical grade), and of course other numbering schemes exist.

Sorting 11 or more grades of plastic would be overwhelming as it would require 11 separate bins, and could easily result in more people not even attempting to keep up with it and just chucking it all, which would defeat the whole purpose, wouldn't it?

Thursday, November 05, 2009

Another part of my childhood - gone!

It's so nice to see polymer technology being used to produce such useful items, such as spitballs.

Isn't it enough that us old timers have to lecture young people about how we use to have to get up to change the TV channel? How we would actually go to this place called a library if we needed to do research for a school project? How we would have to buy a whole album of music by one artist even if we only wanted one song?

Now we can add to the list the tales of how we would make spitballs by chewing on paper or tissues, how getting the right amount of saliva and paper was essential (see, we were budding rheologists and didn't even know it!). Now that is all done for them. Oh the loss.

Times move on.