Tuesday, December 7th, 2010

Plastics Shine in TIME’s 50 Best Inventions of 2010

TIME magazine recently released its 50 Best Inventions of 2010 list, and – no surprise -  many of the inventions are plastics-based. In addition to the well-publicized plastic bottle boat (which employed recycled bottles and a recycled PET material called Seretex), several others on TIME’s list – from the iPad to new, improved 3-D glasses – make use of polymer technology in an essential way.  Read on for some of the really fun ones that caught my eye.  Who knows, maybe you’ll find the perfect gift for that special someone!

For our troops in Afghanistan, the squirt gun now has a serious older brother.  From Sandia National Laboratories, the fluid-blade disablement tool was designed by, among others, Steve Todd, an engineer who has Navy experience fighting improvised explosive devices (IED’s).  Comprised of a clear plastic device filled with water and a small explosive charge, the device “allows you to have a high-speed, very precise water blade to go through and do precision type of destruction on whatever improvised explosive device it’s going up against. Immediately behind the precision water blade is a water slug, which performs a general disruption that tears everything apart,” Todd said.  Thousands of the $58 units have already been shipped to Afghanistan.

And you thought duct tape was cool?  Check out Sugru, a silicone rubber available in several colors which has taken sculpting clay to the next level.  Tired of wincing every time you drop your iPhone?  No worries, Sugru to the rescue.  Once you remove it from its foil pack, you have 30 minutes to mold Sugru to your specifications (repair a kitchen utensil handle, add a better grip to a tool, etc.)  After curing for 24 hours, you have a flexible “fix” for any number of household repairs.  Bottom line:  no need to throw out so much stuff!

What do you get when you embroider 29,000 nylon price-tag fasteners in a herringbone pattern onto a leather coat?  A luscious plastic-fur coat, natch!  Produced by the French avant-garde fashion house Martin Margiela, the coat was displayed at the Cooper-Hewitt’s National Design Triennial.   Said curator Matilda McQuaid, “It’s a message about sustainability, but done with humor, saying we should look at reusing our resources.”

Finally, it’s not a bird, it’s not a plane, it’s… the STS-111, an unmanned airship made of ripstop nylon intended for providing surveillance capabilities in disaster areas or carrying communications equipment to link those cut off from the rest of the world by catastrophe.  Designed for quick deployment and launched from virtually anywhere with no need for a large hangar or an exposed platform, the STS-111 measures 111 feet in length and 11 feet in height and is based on a patented multi-segmented, non-rigid design for missions at altitudes up to 15,000 feet and lasting two and a half days.

With a price tag of $2 million to $3 million, the STS-111 won’t be on any of my holiday shopping lists, but I know of a few folks who can count on finding Sugru in their stockings this year!

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