Discover the most talked about and latest scientific content & concepts.

Concept: Polystyrene


OBJECTIVE: To explore ways of controlling Chrysomya putoria, the African latrine fly, in pit latrines. As pit latrines are a major source of these flies, eliminating these important breeding sites is likely to reduce village fly populations, and may reduce the spread of diarrhoeal pathogens. METHODS: We treated 24 latrines in a Gambian village: six each with (i) pyriproxyfen, an insect juvenile hormone mimic formulated as Sumilarv(®) 0.5G, a 0.5% pyriproxyfen granule, (ii) expanded polystyrene beads (EPB), (iii) local soap or (iv) no treatment as controls. Flies were collected using exit traps placed over the drop holes, weekly for five weeks. In a separate study, we tested whether latrines also function as efficient flytraps using the faecal odours as attractants. We constructed six pit latrines each with a built-in flytrap and tested their catching efficiency compared to six fish-baited box traps positioned 10 m from the latrine. Focus group discussions conducted afterwards assessed the acceptability of the flytrap latrines. RESULTS: Numbers of emerging C. putoria were reduced by 96.0% (95% CIs: 94.5-97.2%) 4-5 weeks after treatment with pyriproxyfen; by 64.2% (95% CIs: 51.8-73.5%) after treatment with local soap; by 41.3% (95% CIs = 24.0-54.7%) after treatment with EPB 3-5 weeks after treatment. Flytraps placed on latrines collected C. putoria and were deemed acceptable to local communities. CONCLUSIONS: Sumilarv 0.5G shows promise as a chemical control agent, whilst odour-baited latrine traps may prove a useful method of non-chemical fly control. Both methods warrant further development to reduce fly production from pit latrines. A combination of interventions may prove effective for the control of latrine flies and the diseases they transmit.

Concepts: Focus group, Insect, Polystyrene, Flies, Latrine, The Gambia, Pit toilet, Outhouse


Global warming, market and production capacity are being the key drivers for selecting the main players for the next decades in the market of bio-based plastics. The drop-in bio-based polymers such as the bio-based polyethylene terephtalate (PET) or polyethylene (PE), chemically identical to their petrochemical counterparts but having a component of biological origin, are in the top of the list. They are followed by new polymers such as PHA and PLA with a significant market growth rate since 2014 with projections to 2020. Research will provide improved strains designed through synthetic and systems biology approaches; furthermore, the use of low-cost substrates will contribute to the widespread application of these bio- based polymers. The durability of plastics is not considered anymore as a virtue, and interesting bioprospecting strategies to isolate microorganisms for assimilating the recalcitrant plastics will pave the way for in vivo strategies for plastic mineralization. In this context, waste management of bio-based plastic will be one of the most important issues in the near future in terms of the circular economy. There is a clear need for standardized labelling and sorting instructions, which should be regulated in a coordinated way by policymakers and material producers.

Concepts: Biology, Polymer, Plastic, Polystyrene, Polyethylene, Plastics, Thermoplastic, Resin identification code


High thermal conductivity is critical for many applications of polymers (for example, packaging of light-emitting diodes), in which heat must be dissipated efficiently to maintain the functionality and reliability of a system. Whereas uniaxially extended chain morphology has been shown to significantly enhance thermal conductivity in individual polymer chains and fibers, bulk polymers with coiled and entangled chains have low thermal conductivities (0.1 to 0.4 W m(-1) K(-1)). We demonstrate that systematic ionization of a weak anionic polyelectrolyte, polyacrylic acid (PAA), resulting in extended and stiffened polymer chains with superior packing, can significantly enhance its thermal conductivity. Cross-plane thermal conductivity in spin-cast amorphous films steadily grows with PAA degree of ionization, reaching up to ~1.2 W m(-1) K(-1), which is on par with that of glass and about six times higher than that of most amorphous polymers, suggesting a new unexplored molecular engineering strategy to achieve high thermal conductivities in amorphous bulk polymers.

Concepts: Polymer, Heat, Chain, Physical chemistry, Polystyrene, Nylon, Thermal conductivity, Electrical conductivity


Chain alignment can significantly influence the macroscopic properties of a polymeric material, but no general and versatile methodology has yet been reported to obtain highly ordered crystalline packing of polymer chains, with high stability. Here, we disclose a strategy that relies on ‘ordered crosslinks’ to produce polymeric materials that exhibit a crystalline arrangement. Divinyl crosslinkers (2,5-divinyl-terephthalate) were first embedded, as substitutional ligands, into the structure of a porous coordination polymer (PCP), [Cu(terephthalate)triethylenediamine0.5]n. A representative vinyl monomer, styrene, was subsequently polymerized inside the channels of the host PCP. The polystyrene chains that form within the PCP channels also crosslink with the divinyl species. This bridges together the polymer chains of adjacent channels and ensures that, on selective removal of the PCP, the polymer chains remain aligned. Indeed, the resulting material exhibits long-range order and is stable to thermal and solvent treatments, as demonstrated by X-ray powder diffraction and transmission electron microscopy.

Concepts: Diffraction, Polymer, Polymer chemistry, Monomer, Polystyrene, Elastomer, Cross-link, Synthetic rubber


The modulus of elasticity of soft materials on the nanoscale is of interest when studying thin films, nanocomposites, and biomaterials. Two novel modes of atomic force microscopy (AFM) have been introduced recently: HarmoniX and PeakForce QNM. Both modes produce distribution maps of the elastic modulus over the sample surface. Here we investigate the question of how quantitative these maps are when studying soft materials. Three different polymers with a macroscopic Young’s modulus of 0.6-0.7 GPa (polyurethanes) and 2.7 GPa (polystyrene) are analyzed using these new modes. The moduli obtained are compared to the data measured with the other commonly used techniques, dynamic mechanical analyzer (DMA), regular AFM, and nanoindenter. We show that the elastic modulus is overestimated in both the HarmoniX and PeakForce QNM modes when using regular sharp probes because of excessively overstressed material in the samples. We further demonstrate that both AFM modes can work in the linear stress-strain regime when using a relatively dull indentation probe (starting from ∼210 nm). The analysis of the elasticity models to be used shows that the JKR model should be used for the samples considered here instead of the DMT model, which is currently implemented in HarmoniX and PeakForce QNM modes. Using the JKR model and∼240 nm AFM probe in the PeakForce QNM mode, we demonstrate that a quantitative mapping of the elastic modulus of polymeric materials is possible. A spatial resolution of ∼50 nm and a minimum 2 to 3 nm indentation depth are achieved.

Concepts: Polymer, Polystyrene, Young's modulus, Elasticity, Elastic modulus, Stiffness, Hooke's law, Poisson's ratio


Near edge X-ray absorption fine structure (NEXAFS) coupled with molecular dynamics simulations were utilized to probe the orientation at the exposed surface of the polymer film for polystyrene type polymers with various pendant functional groups off the phenyl ring. For all the polymers, the surface was oriented so that the rings are nominally normal to the film surface and pointing outward from the surface. The magnitude of this orientation was small and dependent on the size of the pendant functional group. Bulky functional groups hindered the surface orientation, leading to nearly unoriented surfaces. Depth dependent NEXAFS measurements demonstrated that the surface orientation was localized near the interface. Molecular dynamics simulations showed that the phenyl rings were not oriented strongly around a particular “average tilt angle”. In contrast, simulations demonstrate that the phenyl rings exhibit a broad distribution of tilt angles, and that changes in the tilt angle distribution with pendant functionality give rise to the observed NEXAFS response. The more oriented samples exhibit a higher probability of phenyl ring orientation at angles greater than 60 degrees relative to the plane of the films surface.

Concepts: Polymer, Functional groups, Polystyrene, Surface, Surfaces, Phenyl group, Random coil, Torus


High-performance thermally insulating materials from renewable resources are needed to improve the energy efficiency of buildings. Traditional fossil-fuel-derived insulation materials such as expanded polystyrene and polyurethane have thermal conductivities that are too high for retrofitting or for building new, surface-efficient passive houses. Tailored materials such as aerogels and vacuum insulating panels are fragile and susceptible to perforation. Here, we show that freeze-casting suspensions of cellulose nanofibres, graphene oxide and sepiolite nanorods produces super-insulating, fire-retardant and strong anisotropic foams that perform better than traditional polymer-based insulating materials. The foams are ultralight, show excellent combustion resistance and exhibit a thermal conductivity of 15 mW m(-1) K(-1), which is about half that of expanded polystyrene. At 30 °C and 85% relative humidity, the foams retained more than half of their initial strength. Our results show that nanoscale engineering is a promising strategy for producing foams with excellent properties using cellulose and other renewable nanosized fibrous materials.

Concepts: Nanotechnology, Polystyrene, Relative humidity, Thermal conductivity, Insulation, Alternative energy, Building insulation materials, Building insulation


Bicycloalkyl groups have previously been described as phenyl group bioisosteres. This article describes the synthesis of new building blocks allowing their introduction in complex molecules, and explores their use as a means to modify the physicochemical properties of drug candidates and improve the quality of imaging agents. In particular, the replacement of an aromatic ring with a bicyclo[1.1.1]pentane-1,3-diyl group improves solubility by at least 50-fold, and markedly decreases non-specific binding (NSB) as measured using CHI(IAM), the chromatographic hydrophobicity index on immobilized artificial membranes. Structural variations with the bicyclo[2.2.2]octane-1,4-diyl group led to more lipophilic molecules and did not show the same benefits with regard to non-specific binding or solubility, whereas substitutions with cubane-1,4-diyl also showed an improvement in both parameters. These results confirm the potential advantages of both BCP and cubane motifs as bioisosteric replacements for optimizing para-phenyl substituted molecules.

Concepts: Better, Improve, Atom, Polystyrene, Aromatic compounds, Replacements


Most desktop 3D printers designed for the consumer market utilize a plastic filament extrusion and deposition process to fabricate solid objects. Previous research has shown that the operation of extrusion-based desktop 3D printers can emit large numbers of ultrafine particles (UFPs: particles less than 100 nm) and some hazardous volatile organic compounds (VOCs), although very few filament and printer combinations have been tested to date. Here we quantify emissions of UFPs and speciated VOCs from five commercially available desktop 3D printers utilizing up to nine different filaments using controlled experiments in a test chamber. Median estimates of time-varying UFP emission rates ranged from ~108 to ~1011 #/min across all tested combinations, varying primarily by filament material and, to a lesser extent, bed temperature. The individual VOCs emitted in the largest quantities included caprolactam from nylon-based and imitation wood and brick filaments (ranging from ~2 to ~180 μg/min), styrene from acrylonitrile butadiene styrene (ABS) and high-impact polystyrene (HIPS) filaments (~10 to ~110 μg/min), and lactide from polylactic acid (PLA) filaments (~4 to ~5 μg/min). Results from a screening analysis of the potential exposures to these products in a typical small office environment suggest caution should be used when operating many of the printer and filament combinations in enclosed or poorly ventilated spaces or without the aid of a combined gas and particle filtration system.

Concepts: Polystyrene, Volatile organic compound, Thermoplastic, Polylactic acid, Acrylonitrile butadiene styrene, Volatile, Styrene, Ozone


Polyethylene (PE) and isotactic polypropylene (iPP) constitute nearly two-thirds of the world’s plastic. Despite their similar hydrocarbon makeup, the polymers are immiscible with one another. Thus, common grades of PE and iPP do not adhere or blend, creating challenges for recycling these materials. We synthesized PE/iPP multiblock copolymers using an isoselective alkene polymerization initiator. These polymers can weld common grades of commercial PE and iPP together, depending on the molecular weights and architecture of the block copolymers. Interfacial compatibilization of phase-separated PE and iPP with tetrablock copolymers enables morphological control, transforming brittle materials into mechanically tough blends.

Concepts: Polymer, Copolymer, Polymer chemistry, Plastic, Polystyrene, Polypropylene, Polyethylene, Polyethylene terephthalate