Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Polymers Go Nuts!

The latest item from the bio-polymers front is the announcement by NEC (described in this Design News article) of a material prepared from cellulose and cardanol. Cardanol is a phenol derived from cashew shells.

The developers aver that the material is a good candidate for electronic equipment housings and that it potentially can be cost-competitive with traditional alternatives. They say that they're shopping around for a manufacturer for the resin.

This development is certainly interesting on its own merits, but I think it draws attention to a broader point. That is, polymers in general can be agnostic with respect to feedstocks. At present, the economics of the industry favor fossil-derived inputs, but as we get around to fully costing in the externalities involved in the use of petroleum and natural gas there is a strong likelihood that other materials will become relatively attractive.

Hydrocarbons are hydrocarbons; in the long run it's all just chemical engineering!

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