Stronger, lighter plastic would be just fantastic

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SCIENTISTS from Edinburgh University have discovered that a new generation of lighter, stronger plastics could be produced thanks to a new chemical process they have devised.

Chemists working on the nanoscale – 80,000 times smaller than a hair’s breadth – have managed to tie molecules into complex knots that could give materials exceptional versatility.

They hope that the new molecules – known as pentafoil knots – will mimic the characteristics of complex knots found in proteins and DNA, which help to make some substances elastic.

Principal researcher David Leigh said: “It’s very early to say for sure, but the type of mechanical cross-linking we have just carried out could lead to very light but strong materials – something akin to a molecular chain mail.

“It could also produce materials with exceptional elastic or shock-absorbing properties because molecular knots and entanglements are intimately associated with those characteristics.”