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Discovery Could Lead To Stable, Inexpensive Plastics

Researchers have uncovered tantalizing evidence that using chirality -- "the left or right handedness" of molecules -- can give certain plastics the stable optical properties of more expensive and harder-to-manufacture materials. The discovery might open the door for inexpensive plastics to be used in optoelectronics, says Molecular OptoElectronics Corp., Watervliet, N.Y. The company's chemists separated a chiral monomer called indane bisphenol into right-and-left-handed forms to create a one-handed polycarbonate. Research showed that the optical properties of polycarbonate made with one-handed chiral molecules were four times as stable as those of the polymer made using a mixture. Other properties such as ductility and high temperature performance were nearly identical.

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