Silicon Valley Researcher Accidentally Creates New Kind of Plastic, Could Help Environment

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    NEWSLETTERS

    It is a discovery that could change our lives, and like so many memorable inventions, it happened by accident. A Silicon Valley tech researcher created a new kind of plastic, and it could help, rather than hurt, the environment. Business and Tech reporter Scott Budman got the exclusive story inside the lab today and is live in San Jose. (Published Friday, May 16, 2014)

    It is a discovery that could change lives, and like so many memorable inventions, it happened by accident.

    A Silicon Valley tech researcher created a new kind of plastic, and it could help, rather than hurt, the environment.

    Many people use plastic bags that can be harmful to the environment, but now, there is a new plastic in town thanks to the work of a local chemist.

    It is not a stretch to call this a life-changing discovery.

    Jeannette Garcia, an IBM chemist in San Jose, thought she made a mistake in the lab. However, what she made was as a brand new kind of plastic that's recyclable.

    "I was really excited about this because I had made plastic, clearly," Garcia said.

    It could change the way people build things because the new plastic is super-strong, and cheap to make.

    "They are very inexpensive, and start out with inexpensive starting materials," IBM research scientist James Hedrick said. "So, I would envision they would find their way into everyday consumer products."

    It is the kind of discovery that comes along once every few decades, and although it took awhile for Jeannette to figure out what she made, this product could be a legacy that changes everything from the way we build to the way we bag groceries.

    "Definitely proud of my work, proud of the paper and really excited for the field to see it and to start having discussions with people about it," Garcia said.

    So, there is a future in plastics, thanks largely to the work done by Garcia. It is early, but the science community is already buzzing about the potential uses of the new plastic.

    Aerospace? Semiconductors? Maybe even shopping bags?

    We'll keep you posted.