“We are also working to introduce microcapsules in polyethylene”, one of the most widely used plastics, “with an adhesive substance which is released after the material breaks and fills the cavity”, continues Méndez Llatas. A third area of study consists of adding a molecule to the structure of that plastic which can make or break chemical bonds with light, “an intelligent material that can be played with depending on the wavelength applied.”
Repsol is assessing the application of bioplastics for food packaging which can be sent to composting plants to become organic fertiliser after use.
Electronics is also in the midst of a revolution thanks to progress made in new materials. Plastic microprocessors, folding and transparent screens or graphene supercapacitors, which may replace current batteries and can be charged in mere seconds, are some of the applications in full development. Graphene is undoubtedly a very fashionable material and “is probably going to bring us a great deal of surprises”, thinks Méndez Llatas. Although its industrial-scale production is not yet resolved, it is a resource, which as it is formed by pure carbon, “you have it everywhere: you can obtain it from carbon or ethylene, which comes from oil.”
Graphene is undoubtedly a very fashionable material and is probably going to bring us a great deal of surprises.