Heat-conducting plastics unveiled

Researchers in the US have found a way to create heat-conducting plastics.

The University of Michigan team says its plastic blend can conduct heat 10 times better than the nearest counterpart.

To begin, the team devised a way to link long polymer chains of a plastic called polyacrylic acid (PAA) with short strands of another called polyacryloyl piperidine (PAP).

The resulting blend relies on hydrogen bonds that are 10 to 100 times stronger than the forces that loosely hold together the long strands in most other plastics.

"We improved those connections so the heat energy can find continuous pathways through the material," said Jinsang Kim, an associate professor of materials science and engineering.

"There's still a long way to go, but this is a very important step we made to understand how to engineer plastics in this way. Ten times better is still a lot lower heat conductivity than metals, but we've opened the door to continue improving."

Laura Hopperton

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