According to researchers at Tel Aviv University, the global consumption of plastics will reach 200 million tons annually by 2020. As scientists continue to develop biobased alternatives to petroleum-based polymers, others focus on making traditional plastics more effective. Moshe Kol, a professor at Tel Aviv's School of Chemistry, has announced the creation of a higher-grade plastic—in the form of a super-strength polypropylene. Kol's new version of PP, which is one of the most widely used plastics, was made possible by the development of a new, higher quality catalyst for the polymer-production process. "Everyone is using the same building blocks, so the key is to use different machinery," Kol says. The result is a polypropylene with the most uniform polymer chain—and highest melting point—created to date.
Kol and his team anticipate the new plastic will be applied in the automotive and construction industries, where high-strength plastics are increasingly used in the place of steel, ceramics, and other heavy materials with high embodied energy. "Plastic pipes require far fewer raw materials, weighing ten times less than steel and a hundred times less than cement. Reduced leaking means more efficient water use and better water quality," says Kol. One can only hope that polypropylene recycling—which has not been as successful as steel or PET recycling—will likewise become more effective.