Canadian Plastics

Electrically conductive plastic set to give processors a jolt (September 01, 2009)

Most of us don't think about our car battery until we have to replace it. And at that point we realize how heavy it is, and probably pause to wonder why -- with plastic car parts becoming lighter by the day -- the battery still feels like...

September 1, 2009   Canadian Plastics



Most of us don’t think about our car battery until we have to replace it. And at that point we realize how heavy it is, and probably pause to wonder why — with plastic car parts becoming lighter by the day — the battery still feels like something that Arnold Schwarzenegger would have trouble lifting.

The short answer is that, because of the electricity coursing through it, there’s never been a way to make a lightweight car battery from plastic.

Until now, that is.

A new moldable conductive plastic called ElectriPlast, being brought to market by development company Integral Technologies Inc., has the potential to replace traditional material like lead or stainless steel in a car battery, reducing the weight by up to 30 pounds.

According to William Robinson, Integral’s chairman and CEO, ElectriPlast’s ability to conduct electricity results from a blend of small single pellets design-compounded with metal fibres. The technology was six years in the making, and wasn’t achieved without false starts. “In the end, the key was to find a polymer that had a low dielectric loss tangent,” Robinson said. “We’ve now patented not only the pellet, but also the process of having it under one pellet.”

FIRST STEPS

The use of ElectriPlast as a weight-saving replacement to lead and steel in car batteries is about to be tested. “We’re working with a battery manufacturer to change the weight factor within a car battery by making the body completely from plastic,” Robinson said. “The project has advanced to the CAD drawing stage, and can ultimately help the auto industry reach the goal of having the same amount of power, but with a lower load factor.”

With a shift towards a “green” economy in North America, Robinson believes that ElectriPlast’s characteristics, such as weight savings, cost savings, design flexibility, conductivity and non-corrosiveness, could lead to the product becoming an important part of new transportation trends.

And this may be just the beginning. Integral is currently working to apply its technology toward the creation of antennas, apparel, appliances, computers, electrical and heating systems and more, Robinson said, and at present there are already almost 120 patents filed around ElectriPlast and its use.

PARTNERSHIP PAYS OFF

A key element in developing ElectriPlast has been Integral’s partnership with Jasper, Ind.-based fabricator Jasper Rubber Products. “They’re our sole manufacturer, and their involvement allows us to remain focused on developing the science behind the ElectriPlast material,” Robinson said.

And the fruit of this development is a product with very simple operating instructions for processors. “The ElectriPlast pellet can be custom made for any use, regardless of how simple or complex the application, or of the ratio of metal-to-polymer required in the pellet,” Robinson said. “The material is available as either an additive or resin, and the customer doesn’t have to do anything other than convey it to the processing machine.”

Robinson has no doubt that the years of sweat equity are about to pay off. “We’ve got the material; it’s just a matter of finding companies that are aggressive and want to move forward,” he said. “If we can get our foot in the door, I think that people will look at us very seriously.”

That wouldn’t exactly come as a shock.

Integral Technologies Inc. (Bellingham, Wash.); www.itkg.net; 1-888-666-8833


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