7 May 1998

The Name's Bond... Plastic Bond

A perfect coupling between plastics and paints has been developed by CSIRO (Commonwealth Scientific & Industrial Research Organization) scientists in Australia, beating one of the most intractable problems of modern materials technology. Polymers tend not to stick together - applying plastic surfaces to plastic materials has required the use of environmentally damaging solvents and other chemicals. This new process forms a nearly unbreakable bond.

Mr Larry Little, Chief of CSIRO Building Construction and Engineering, describes the process which engineers the surface of such reluctant polymers as polypropylene and polyethylene: "Tests show that it bonds automotive paints to moulded polymer parts like bumper bars so strongly that the polymer itself will break before the paint can be pulled from the surface."

A $16m licensing agreement has been signed with a US building products company and further vast revenues seem very likely.

With patents, presumably, pending, a sensibly coy press release from the CSIRO indicates that the SICOR process involves a simple surface treatment applied at up to 300m per second. This production line treatment should encourage manufacturing use of the process and reduce costs. Project Leader Dr Voytek Gutowski explains that the main attractions of SICOR to industry are its capacity to modify the surface characteristics of the product in a continuous process without affecting the bulk properties of the material.

Potential uses are enormous, including building products, defence equipment, the vehicle industry, packaging and biomedical uses. Another major application of the process will enable waste polyethylene to be recycled efficiently, reducing energy use and the greenhouse emissions involved in plastics production.

Ken and Barbie will stay together anyway, of course, in case you're worried.