Plastic engines, electronics

The idea of replacing steel and other metal and alloy components in vehicles has been on the roadmap for many years, but there are obstacles to this simple way to improve efficiency by reducing overall vehicle weight. Ceramic components may be less dense than metals and have higher heat resistance but they are not good thermal conductors and suffer from brittleness. A polymer that is thermally conducting and stable to heat has been developed by a team at the University of Michigan. Fundamentally, the team has developed a technique for spin coating a polymer on to a surface and exploited electrostatic repulsion between the monomer links in the polymers chains to straighten those chains and thus open up channels through which heat energy can be propagated and so dissipated. Applications in vehicle components and electronics should be possible.