Now, plastics that conduct electricity

December 10th, 2008 - 5:15 pm ICT by ANI  

Washington, Dec 10 (ANI): In an effort to combine the properties of plastics and metals, scientists have developed a composite material, which not only conducts electricity like metals but is also light and inexpensive like plastics.

The plastic-metal hybrids will be used in the very places where plastic components are equipped with printed circuit boards, for instance in cars or aircraft.

Till date, it was only possible via the roundabout route of punching and bending metal sheets in an elaborate process in order to integrate them in a component.

The IFAM in Bremen has now devised a solution that combines the best of both worlds without requiring new machinery to process the components.

The greatest challenge for the researchers was getting the plastic to conduct electricity, but they overcame the difficulty by creating a composite material, in which the different materials are not merely slotted together or bonded, but mixed via a special process to form a single material.

The process produces a homogeneous and fine-meshed electrically conductive network. The composite possesses the desired chemical stability and low weight, coupled with the electrical and thermal conductivity of metals.

The process would drastically reduce the production costs and the weight of the material, as it will no longer be necessary in future to integrate metal circuit boards and the components will soon be able to be produced in a single work step.

Particularly, automobile and aircraft manufacturers will benefit from this development.

The headlamp housings on a car, for example, are made of plastic. Until now, punched metal sheets have been installed in order to illuminate the headlamps. If the housings were fitted with circuit boards made of the conductive plastic-metal hybrids, they could be produced more efficiently and at lower cost than ever before.

Many components of an aircraft, such as the fuselage, are partly made of carbon fiber composites (CFC). However, they lack the ability to conduct electricity. A stroke of lightning would have fatal consequences. A plastic-metal hybrid would be a good alternative for discharge structures on components. (ANI)

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