Nicole Demarquette: Inventing New Materials
Given the technological possibilities, our consumption habits and economic and environmental demands, the need for new high-quality materials has never been greater. Professor in the Mechanical Engineering Department, Nicole Demarquette’s job is to invent them.
Why Create New Materials?
Creating new materials meets a variety of needs in industry and among consumers and society. People expect lower production costs, new mechanical or electric properties or more lightweight materials. Many of them hope to address environmental concerns. The demand has never been greater, and reflects current trends.
How Are New Materials Created?
There are a number of techniques. Thermoplastics can be blended, for example or nanoparticles added to create a nanocomposite. In both cases, the hardest part is obtaining an optimal microstructure – one which will give the new material the exact qualities desired. Without the right morphology, the polymer will not possess the desired properties.
Blending Thermoplastics to Create New Material
The easiest way to create new plastic materials is to blend two polymers in an extruder or an internal mixer in order to create a third material that combines the properties of the two original materials, as long as the morphology of the blend is optimized.
Adding Nanoparticles to Obtain a Nanocomposite
A second technique involves introducing a nanometric reinforcement into a thermoplastic matrix in order to create a nanocomposite. For example, if we want to add conductive properties to a material, we add carbon nanoparticles.
This creation technique produces results that are often extremely beneficial, as these reinforcements are introduced in such minuscule quantities that they have the effect of enhancing the properties of the original material without altering its density.
Developing New Products Through Electrospinning
Professor Demarquette also works on designing products created through electrospinning, a manufacturing technique that uses electrical energy to transform a polymer-based solution into nanometric fibres with very specific properties.