NEW YORK, N.Y., January 21, 2000 – A versatile new composite material made from fibers that are 10 times stronger than steel and have unique electrical properties has been developed by PolyEitan Composite Ltd., a company launched in the business incubator of the Technion-Israel Institute of Technology. The material received the 1999 Best Project of the Year Award from the US-Israel Binational Industrial Research and Development (BIRD) Foundation, jointly funded by the U.S. and Israeli governments.
The new composite, 3DPETM, is ideally suited to many applications, from circuit boards for high-frequency communications and radar installations to coatings for human joint implants and bullet proof cars. A solid composite, it is made from ultrahigh molecular weight polyethylene (UHMWPE), a form of plastic in which hundreds of thousands of atoms are strung together in very long chains. It has been manufactured for 15 years as a fiber, but PolyEitan has developed a novel technology to turn it into a solid composite.
"This novel composite made of a single chemical entity offers improved performance, particularly at the high frequencies required for the broad bandwidth used in high-speed communication," said Dr. Yachin Cohen, founder of PolyEitan and associate professor of chemical engineering at the Technion-Israel Institute of Technology. (Eitan means strong in Hebrew.)
Using the combined effects of temperature, pressure, tension and chemical solvents, PolyEitan is able to get the fibers to entangle and bind with each other, forming a very strong material. The process causes the outer layers of the fibers to swell, forming a brush-like structure that links up with similar structures on the supporting matrix. When the fibers solidify, they are rigidly bonded together by the entangled brushes. While the material is known as a composite, due to its physical structure, it is actually made up of a single chemical substance.
3DPE is of interest to the electronics industry because it is highly transparent to electromagnetic radiation at the extremely high frequencies that are increasingly needed for the next generation of wireless communication. For this reason, the biggest market for 3DPE is expected to be in circuit board materials for electronic devices, including high-speed wireless communications equipment and microwave devices.
In addition, because it is so strong for its weight, it can be used for applications such as radomes in radar installations where there is a premium on minimizing the amount of material used. The new material is also considerably less costly to produce than competing composites such as those made from Teflon-glass.
For entirely different purposes, 3DPE can be used to coat the surfaces of implants in human joints. The material's resistance to wear makes it ideal for this purpose. As well, it is highly bio-compatible and interacts favorably with bodily tissues.
Finally, such a light and strong material can be used for bullet-proof armor in helmets and high security cars, among other similar uses.
PolyEitan holds a US patent, issued last October, for the use of this composite material in circuit boards and antenna. The company, whose current facility is located on the Technion campus, is planning to build a manufacturing plant in Israel to supply the composite. The product was developed initially in 1996 by PolyEitan founder Dr. Yachin Cohen, Dr. Dmitry M. Rein and Dr. Lev Vaykhansky, Research Fellows in the Department of Chemical Engineering at the Technion. It was later supported by the BIRD Foundation in a joint project with AlliedSignal Inc., now Honeywell, Inc.
"We are gratified to be working with PolyEitan and the BIRD Foundation on this project that offers a new use for our Spectra fiber," said Caroline Holtzman, industry leader for Honeywell Performance Fibers.
The Technion-Israel Institute of Technology is the country's premier scientific and technological center for applied research and education. It commands a worldwide reputation for its pioneering work in communications, electronics, computer science, biotechnology, water-resource management, materials engineering, aerospace and medicine, among others. The majority of Israel's engineers are Technion graduates, as are most of the founders and managers of its high-tech industries. The Technion's 13,000 students and 700 faculty study and work in its 19 faculties and 30 research centers and institutes in Haifa.
The American Technion Society (ATS) supports the Technion. Based in New York City, it is the leading American organization supporting higher education in Israel, with more than 20,000 supporters and 17 offices around the United States. Technion societies are located in 24 countries around the world.
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