Couples therapy for plastics (for the sake of our planet!)
With the climate crisis, we need more sustainable ways of meeting our energy demands. We hear a lot about solar cells and wind turbines… but these are not of much use if the energy they harness is lost before even reaching us! We need power cables that efficiently transport electricity, enabled by the insulating layer surrounding the cable wire. The insulation material should not only minimise the loss of electricity during transportation, but must also withstand the high temperatures in the cable!
Polyethylene (the plastic in plastic bags) is an almost perfect material, except it is too weak at the high cable temperatures. The material can be strengthened by adding another plastic that is harder to melt, like polypropylene (eg. in takeaway boxes). However, this only works if the two plastics mix well, which they don’t because they dislike each other. My research focuses on understanding and developing different ways of improving the relationship between the two plastics – with the goal of achieving the ideal insulation material for cables that transport electricity (to us) efficiently!