It's always nice to see a main stream publication discussing a more technical aspect of polymers, especially for a respected one such as the Economist. Last week they discussed the new results (Biomacromolecules - subscription/pay-per-view required)from the Schiraldi group at Case Western, making a casein based polymer reinforced by nanoclay. The hype here is that it is biodegradable as it is protein based.
The summary in the Economist has a few laughable details - such as describing some of the processing conditions as "freezing it at 80°C below zero" and just to be sure that this was not just a on-time error, they repeat is again later: "It was then cured for 24 hours in an oven at 80°C above zero." (-80°C and 80°C are sufficient). And somehow they are not concerned that it takes 4+ days to make a batch of this new material, obviously ignorant of how short a time period is involved in modern polymerization schemes.
The biodegradablilty of the material is (as expected) only measured in compost conditions, where 20% of the material was degraded in 18 days. The lack of widespread composting conditions was also overlooked by the Economist, which is especially poignant since they call the compost conditions as a "dump-like environment".
You will recall that the Wall Street Journal made an attempt not too long ago to explain the glass transition temperature, an effort that came off a little better than this one.
Wasn't a fan of that Economist article I'm sfraid.
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