Sunday, December 11, 2011

Thurston Labs

I've been running several experiments in my laboratory. Here's a picture of the gently restrained chaos.
 My first experiment was using the plastic from yogurt containers and melting it down in acetone. This makes a gooey substance that can be formed into shapes and then allowed to dry and it goes back to a flimsy plastic like you started off with. But more interesting is I found that if you grind graphite from pencil leads down very fine and knead it into the goo when it dries it hardens to much harder than the plastic started off. Here's a picture of unadulterated and the graphite hardened plastics.

The one on the left is so hard and strong that I haven't been able to bend or break it using all my force. The plain on the right bends easily.
    The next experiment was using the same kind of plastic as above but I mixed in aluminum hydroxide. I made the aluminum hydroxide by disolving aluminum foil in sodium hydroxide that I bought online. The interesting result of this experiment was that the resulting plastic conducts electricity! But on the downside it made the plastic weak and brittle. So I'm going to try and combine these two experiments and see if I can make a strong plastic that conducts.
I thought of a lot of uses for conductive plastic. One is considering that usually a flashlight has wires and metal tabs inside it touching the battery, with a conductive plastic it could be built so the "wire" is a stripe in the all-plastic body. Or a circuit board could be made with a plastic foundation and something like a hot glue gun to put down a layer of plastic instead of solder. Searching online I did find there are some examples of conductive plastic already being produced but they are I think being produced with different base materials and methods. The graphite hardening step is something similar to how they currently make carbon reinforced products but I'm using plastics instead of epoxies and ground graphite instead of fiber woven into mats.

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