Material science is an interdisciplinary field that involves physics, chemistry, mechanical, civil, and electrical engineering to analyze the properties of matter. Material science and research play an important role in product development by aiding product teams understand the properties of materials and modify them as needed to achieve an end-product with the desired properties. Testing, which is critical for successful commercialization,  often involves verifying the properties of materials used to develop a product as well as verifying the properties of the final product to ensure it will succeed in the application it is intended to be used in.

Plastic materials, composed of carbon-containing monomers, are amongst the top materials used within a variety of end-products. They are durable, cost-effective, convenient, light-weight, and retain color well.


Plastics are the most commonly used material for additive manufacturing and 3D-printed plastics are an important topic of research as they can be used in various applications. Researchers in Rutgers University-New Brunswick School of Engineering have embedded high performance electrical circuits inside 3D-printed plastics that can be used in smaller devices with reduced energy use and increase in performance. Further research includes making fully 3D internal circuits, enhancing conductivity, and creating flexible internal circuits inside the 3D structures.

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Recyclable Plastics

Another important research topic in plastics is the challenge to recycle plastic waste. According to researchers at the U.S. Department of Energy’s (DOE) Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (Berkeley Lab) (, the challenge with recycling plastic material arises from the fact that as plastics with different chemical compositions are mixed together to form the end-product, it is hard to tell which properties will be inherited from the original plastics. Thus, the recovery of the original monomers becomes an unknown equation. Researchers have developed a new plastic material called poly(diketoenamine), or PDK, with reversible bonds that can be recycled by dunking the material in a highly acidic solution. The acid breaks the bonds between the monomers of the PDK to separate the chemical additives that would otherwise prevent the plastic to be upcycled. PDK can be used in adhesives, phone cases, watch bands, shoes, cabling, and more. Further research is planned to use PDK plastics in applications such as textiles, additive manufacturing, and foams.

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Medical Applications

Material science research involving plastics and rubber materials also focus on the development of medical products. Researchers from Chalmers University of Technology, Sweden, have created a new, rubber-like material that is soft, elastic, easy to process. Potential applications of the new material include using is as a replacement for human tissue or as a drug delivery system. Researchers are also looking to develop antibacterial urinary catheters with the material as well as to 3D print it into specific structures.

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Scratch-proof Cars

A newly developed rubber material has also been proven to be useful for the automotive industry; graphene can be used as a scratch-proof paint for cars. Mechanical properties, specifically the Young’s modulus, of the hexagonal boron nitride (h-BN) are similar to those of diamond, yet h-BN is much cheaper, more flexible, and lighter. An international group of researchers have found that bilayer graphene develops a super-lubricity state where heat is not released during friction and additional mechanical strength is developed in the layers of the material. In real-world applications, graphene could be used to created flexible smart devices with resistance against corrosion as well as scratch-proof cars.

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