(UVic/YouTube)

A research team at the University of Victoria is creating an industrial strength plastic that could replace metal used in vehicles, making them lighter and more energy-efficient.

Led by chemist Jeremy Wulff, the team has been working to make Polydicyclopentadiene (PDCPD) – an extremely strong plastic used in construction vehicles – smell less foul and be more receptive to adhesives in order for it have broader applications.

The group accomplished this by adding an extra chemical handle onto the polymer’s molecular structure, thereby also making it recyclable! These changes did not have any effect on the plastic’s industrial-grade strength and ability to withstand temperatures up to 400° C.

“Its durability comes from its molecular make-up,” says Wulff, Canada Research Chair in Bioactive Small Molecule Synthesis.

“PDCPD is extensively crosslinked—which is a fancy way of saying that whatever huge part you make from it is basically one big molecule. Pretty impressive when you think about it—imagine the entire body of your truck cab being made from one gigantic molecule!”

The team is currently looking for an industrial partner to begin pilot-plant vehicle production using PDCPD to pave the way for its eventual commercialization.

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