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IBM Science Technology

IBM Discovers New Class of Polymers 90

Charliemopps (1157495) writes "IBM Research has published a new paper to the journal Science which describes a newly discovered class of Industrial Polymers that promise to revolutionize the fields of transportation, aerospace, and microelectronics. These materials resist cracking, have strength higher than that of bone, the ability to self-heal, and are completely recyclable. 'Codenamed Titan and Hydro, both of which came from the same reaction. One is rigid; it could become part of the next generation of computers. The other is a gel, so it it could be included in water-soluble nail polish.'"
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IBM Discovers New Class of Polymers

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  • by Anonymous Coward

    Seriously disapointed this was not addressed in the brief.

    • by m2shariy ( 1194621 ) on Thursday May 15, 2014 @08:30PM (#47014203)
      Yes. Even better, condoms which dissolve practically in no time so there is no need to dispose of the used ones!
    • Seriously disapointed this was not addressed in the brief.

      It will be addressed in the briefs.

    • Re: IBM Memo 92148 (Anonymous Coward/Slashdot) Can you make condoms with it?

      Hmm, intriguing idea. Almost certainly, but out of which polymer? A rigid "Titan" condom could certainly cover more than one situation (and the idea had considerable appeal when we ran it over the flagpole among our senior execs to see who saluted it and who turned away blushing) but the boys here in R&D said there might be trouble fitting it into a wallet. However, the marketing boys said that we wouldn't even have to change the name -- Titan Condoms (made by IBM!) would sell like hot cakes even if one did have to keep them standing on a shelf or nightstand next to the bed. Besides, if they don't sell to the general population, a bit of retooling and they'll make gangbusters self-propelled grenade casings (especially in the larger sizes) -- although legal says that calling them "Titan missiles" might infringe some trademark or other.

      R&D was, however, quite excited at the prospect of a brush-on "Hydro" condom -- one would never need to take it off. We had a number of volunteers for a pilot project, and it turns out that in fact, one might never be able to take it off. Apparently "Hydro" is also being considered as a nearly indestructible super glue because of all of its dangling, um, "bonds" but this was being investigated by another team. There were, unfortunately, a few drawbacks pointed out by those party-poopers over in legal and their paid shills from the medical profession, so the idea was tabled for the time being, which basically means that we're still going ahead with the project but looking for just the right test population -- males on dialysis or willing to undergo a critical surgical alteration of the liquid waste elimination pathway, for example. However, we're a lot more interested in large federal or state contracts; this is (for example) an intriguing idea for our prison systems, if we can get it past Engineering.

      Keep up the good work, AC, and we are gratified that you are making this valuable suggestion anonymously, as it saves us from the tedious process of running you down and making you sign release forms or having you assassinated so that we can cleanly patent the idea as our own. Now you'll have to excuse me -- I have to go empty my cloaca.

      Irving Bentabit
      IBM (R&D)

  • from the mainframe masters to material magicians?
    • Or more like patent collector fanatix. Seriously, polymer reasearch happened in 1890-1990. I have yet to see much new since. How about nanotubes! Yay! Or nano this nano that. It's a miracle! Like my nano-dick! Stronger than bone. Seriously, I was disappointed when reading the word "bone." I was expecting something like stronger than Kevlar.
      • Your prayer has been answered, you can make the polymer stronger than bone by adding nanotubes!

        Quoth the article:

        "Remarkably, this polymer remain intact when it is exposed to basic water (high pH), but selectively decomposes when exposed to very acidic water (very low pH). This means that under the right conditions, this polymer can be reverted back to its starting materials, which enables it for reuse for other polymers. The material can also be manufactured to have even higher strength if carbon nanotubes

        • One neat thing in polymer science lately is what every other idiot spends his free time poking at, it's a smartphone, driven by OLED's, organic LED's, but that's like not even polymer science at its core, but organic chemistry optoelectronics, and may have more in common with pharmaceutical science than polymer science.
  • by gurps_npc ( 621217 ) on Thursday May 15, 2014 @06:55PM (#47013719) Homepage
    That is, Iron makes a great recyclable because it is magnetic.

    Other metals do OK because we can melt them down and scrape off the slagg, effectively 'distilling' them.

    All other recyclables are far less valuable because of the ton of work we need to do sorting garbage to get them back.

    Plastics and organics on the other hand tend to be very hard to recycle because if you try to melt them, they burn.

    One more 'recylcable' that requires a lot of sorting is pretty worthless, unless it has a quality like magnetic or distillable

    • Chopping up all the plastics and suspending them in water, oil, etc fluids is how some places separate them. It's a kind of "distillation" I suppose.

      Also, eddy currents can be induced in aluminum, tin, etc. other metals to sort them by tossing them around.

      Crushed glass can be sorted by optical systems which let pieces fall and puff jets of air at certain pieces.

      In Houston (and lots of other places) we don't have to sort our recyclables. Soon we may not even have to separate the recycling from the trash: []

      One Bin For All (OBFA) is the next evolution of recycling. It will allow
      Houston residents to place all trash, recyclables, and compostables
      in one bin, providing for a much higher rate of resource recovery.

      Since the two polymers "come from the same reaction" I'm guessing there's a way to separate them...

      • Do a video search for single stream recycling. That is for not separating your recyclables at the curb side.

        It uses a process that sorts similar to how you described with glass. Except it has a few more interesting parts to it. Most major waste companies have them in the large cities in the US now.

    • On the other hand, you can burn mixed organics and extract useful energy. Granted it produces CO2, but it's not like we aren't going to burn lots of organic chemicals anyway.

    • This is not a solution to the recycling problem. It is a solution to a different problem, which happens to be easy to recycle.

      I'd say this is the opposite of worthless, if it solves a non-recycling problem. Especially if it also has a recycling solution that we may not yet know about because people JUST INVENTED IT.

    • by rtb61 ( 674572 )

      Recyclable is not the be all and end all, in fact it became pretty much a scam for mass consumption because of the energy it waste. Built for life, a life times use, is what needs to be promoted. Not fashionable poseur status, but someone you buy once and use for the rest of your life. Something easily repairable, refillable and reusable, something that only needs to be made once and will last you the rest of your life and even be able to be passed onto your children et al. Now that really saves resources

      • Built for life, a life times use, is what needs to be promoted.

        Well, no. That made sense when new inventions tended to come at a rate much slower than the human lifespan. Now they come much more rapidly, and technologies are often outdated before you even get them into your hands. Even with our throwaway culture on average only about 25% of an automobile's energy consumption is in its production.

        We could be making things like garden trowels to a higher minimum standard, but the things that really take a lot of energy to produce, like a car, tend to consume most of thei

        • by rtb61 ( 674572 )

          I gather you have never ever heard of a 90 day warranty and it's significance with regard to the reliability or durability of a product and how many products come with a 90 day warranty, 90 fucking days dude, they aren't inventing new stuff anywhere near that fast.

          • Most stuff with a 90 day warranty lasts more than 90 days.

            Most of the electronics I buy, even ones without a brand name stamped on them, live long enough to be obsoleted.

            This illustrates the real reason for the 90 day warranty: people will shit on your product and claim it had shit on it out of the box.

            Granted, I've had some real lemons. Most of them failed within the warranty. Some of them didn't. Sucks, but it happens.

            If more people were scrupulous in general, warranty terms would be more fair.

    • by Bengie ( 1121981 )
      It was a long while ago, but I remember watching about some nifty devices that used a very specific range of microwave radiation, and it could turn tires, plastic bags, and a huge range of plastic based objects back into a strange oily carbon soup that could be reused. For this device to work, they just threw garbage in it, and metal and oil would come out the other end, separated. We need that kind of device, but working large scale.
  • by Saija ( 1114681 ) on Thursday May 15, 2014 @06:55PM (#47013721) Journal
    An humongous corp patenting a lot of thing on fields such as robotics, ia, materials..
    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward

      A tear came into my eye from the thought. There is progress and the future is as fascinating as in the movies. Samsung, for example, went after generic medicines quite recently. There is more to this life than endless investor value grabs and meaningless dot.coms, after all.

      • oh really, just thing of the aweful weapons they could make with these technologies. and super soldiers.

  • Revolutionary nail polish will revolutionize whole lotta other stuff in a wholy new and exciting way.
  • by mark-t ( 151149 ) <> on Thursday May 15, 2014 @07:01PM (#47013773) Journal
    ... you hear about a new revolutionary breakthrough in such-and-such a field, but nothing ever comes of it. </jaded>
  • by Anonymous Coward

    ... describe a newly discovered class of Industrial Polymers that promise to revolutionize the fields of transportation, aerospace, and microelectronics.

    The other is a gel, so it it could be included in water-soluble nail polish.

    Not to put too much of a damper on the nail polish news junkies here, but surely there's a more exciting application for this second revolutionary polymer than nail polish you need to reapply every time you wash your hands.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday May 15, 2014 @07:15PM (#47013837)

    Lemme guess, Titan is the water-soluble one and Hydro is the super-strong one?

  • by the eric conspiracy ( 20178 ) on Thursday May 15, 2014 @07:18PM (#47013849)

    This stuff breaks down when exposed to acidic water.

    So it certainly won't be very durable outside anywhere on the east coast of the US thanks to the acid rain.

    And indoors, well just watch out for the Pepsi Syndrome!

    • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday May 15, 2014 @07:45PM (#47013995)

      strangely iron, steel and many other materials we build houses and vehicles out of also break down when exposed to acidic water.

      perhaps we could simply paint this new polymer to protect it?

      • Aw crap, meant to hit 'insightful' and accidentally clicked 'redundant.' Posting to undo.

        It always frustrates me when I see new technologies bashed for obvious weaknesses with even more obvious workarounds, especially when those weaknesses are shared by the incumbent technology. It's like the old "batteries have acid and produce hydrogen which can explode hurr hurr" argument against electric cars, when last I checked petrol was also pretty good at exploding.
  • "plastics"

      And thank you filter, maybe I like yelling.

      • you mean this? [] Here's [] some more info, dated from 2009. It's 4x stronger than normal glass, it's basically a type of see-though sapphire...but it's been around for awhile, it's "big use" is armored windows.
  • What's the over-under odds on how long it'll take before they discover X% of the population is allergic to it or it causes cancer?
    • Dunno the odds, but I'll bet they already have research that it DOES cause problems but will just "forget" to mention that part...
  • Starting off with ... "fields of transportation, aerospace, and microelectronics"

    But the real application is ... "water-soluble nail polish.'"

    • by Charliemopps ( 1157495 ) on Thursday May 15, 2014 @08:12PM (#47014111)

      Starting off with ... "fields of transportation, aerospace, and microelectronics"

      But the real application is ... "water-soluble nail polish.'"

      This is what I don't like about submitting to slashdot. It reads like I wrote that. Like that's a quote from me. That's not what I submitted at all. They basically cut the last half of my post off, typed something totally different and provided an entirely different link. For once the editors did edit the story before posting it, but instead of improving it they mangled it.

      In the paper, if you read it, this isn't really about the 2 materials the editors stuck in. Those are just the result of the real breakthrough. Which is IBM has designed modeling software that can design plastics to order. Previously they would just create a plastic, play with it, and see what it was good for. This is how accidents like Silly Putty and Post-it notes came about. But with this new software you can put in characteristics you want the plastic to have and it will spit out which plastics to make and how to make them. It will be revolutionary to every field in industry. The 2 materials mentioned in the Editors link were what they created with the software as a test. Their properties, while interesting, are incidental to the real discovery which is the software.

      • by pla ( 258480 )
        That's not what I submitted at all. They basically cut the last half of my post off, typed something totally different and provided an entirely different link.

        But really, don't those applications directly address two of the critical unsolved issues in Materials Science? How to make iPhones survive an unbraked atmospheric reentry, and how to best have your makeup accidentally come off when you wash your hands? I know those keep me up at night worrying...

        If course, I think we give Slashdot too much cre
      • by shri ( 17709 )

        Thank you. Now that summary would have given me a lot more incentive to read the linked article. Was a bit put of by the nail polish bit -- simply because as much as I know that IBM maintains a very diverse range of research teams, nail polish would not have been something their geeks or PR department would have highlighted. :)

      • ... and provided an entirely different link.

        That all sounds very interesting. I would like to read about it. Could you please provide your original link?

    • Well, I guess the lady astronaut wants to look good when sporting her new ipod mini on the bus before going to the launch pad to get her way to the ISS?

  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday May 15, 2014 @07:38PM (#47013965)

    I'm not exactly the heaviest user of nail polish in the world, but I have to think that making it water-soluble is a terrible, terrible idea.

  • by sensei moreh ( 868829 ) on Thursday May 15, 2014 @08:06PM (#47014081)
    Abstract: ahref= []>
  • promise to revolutionize the fields of transportation, aerospace, and microelectronics.

    Maybe the headline should wait until they do revolutionize the fields of transportation, aerospace, and microelectronics? Such a small proportion of discoveries that promise to revolutionize a field are ever heard from again.

  • So many new materials are popping up that it is very hard for a business to take action as the next new thing might be a better path for a company to take. Batteries are the same way. We seem to have a better battery breakthrough about once a week. How does a large business take advantage of such a situation. Any machines or software that people purchase may well appear as a dumb move as better materials pop up instantly.
  • I am so sick of these announcements. Send samples to Underwriters and USPTO and lets test it out. These press releases are usually pumped by the marketing folks to provide a lift to the share price, prior to a major financing event.... yawn. The yellow rain, it's usually urine. LOL
  • Portal 2? (Score:2, Funny)

    by Anonymous Coward

    Why does this feel like some long lost intro text to Portal 2?

  • What the heck does it have to do with transportation, aerospace and microelectronics ???

    • You don't travel much, huh?

      On any public transport system, there is a significant number of people who spend the journey time applying makeup, nail varnish and other vanity products.

  • Been waiting all my life for that. I can go out in the evening now.
  • There's talk of the gel one being used in time-release drug delivery systems, but you went with the "nail polish" angle?

  • From second link:

    At low temperatures (just over room temperature), another type of polymer can be formed into elastic gels that are still stronger than most polymers, but still maintains its flexibility because of solvent that is trapped within the network, stretching like a rubber band.

    Hmm. I wonder what the solvent is, and would it be harmful as it slowly evaporates?

    Titan is, naturally, the stronger one. According to IBM, it has bone-like strength (its measurements were similar to the organic material that frames our bodies) and roughly one-third of the tensile strength of steel. When IBM researchers combined Titan with 2% to 5% carbon nanotubes, however, they found they could make a material three times stronger than the polyamides sometimes used on current aircraft.

    OK, that seems potentially impressive.

1 Mole = 007 Secret Agents