Plastic replacements

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Lazar
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Plastic replacements

Postby Lazar » Wed Feb 09, 2011 6:55 am UTC

I'm putting this in FS because I'm open to speculative ideas like asteroid mining, but my question is this: Say we have a nice idyllic future-world where we get all our energy from, say, fusion, and we're really eco-conscious, and we don't extract petroleum anymore. What will we use to serve the ubiquitous role played by petroleum-based plastics today? We all know that plastics are very bad for the environment, so something biodegradable would be nice. Bioplastics sound interesting, but is there enough farmland to provide billions of people with their consumer packaging and their food without killing the rainforests? Has anyone got any more far-fetched ideas for plastic replacements?
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userxp
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Re: Plastic replacements

Postby userxp » Wed Feb 09, 2011 9:43 pm UTC

(Slightly off-topic) Here is a quite far-fetched idea of how I think the future might be:
1. Obtain clean source of energy.
2. Use energy to create artificial petroleum (this might be quite hard).
3. Use artificial petroleum to make plastic and run the billions of internal combustion engines we'll still have.
4. (Optional) Use energy to remove the pollution from the environment.

I'd like to think that this won't happen, but seeing how we have already ran out of IPv4 addresses and no ISP has even started to switch to IPv6, I can't really trust corporations to replace petroleum even after we have cheaper and cleaner alternatives.

Technical Ben
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Re: Plastic replacements

Postby Technical Ben » Wed Feb 09, 2011 9:45 pm UTC

Carbon fibre? You can make some pretty flexible stuff from it. Not rubbery, but flexible.
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Izawwlgood
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Re: Plastic replacements

Postby Izawwlgood » Wed Feb 09, 2011 10:49 pm UTC

Dan Simmons write about fiberplastic plantations.

Silk weave modifications.
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bigglesworth
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Re: Plastic replacements

Postby bigglesworth » Wed Feb 09, 2011 10:50 pm UTC

I think that it'd be possible to replace bio-plastics from land crops with bio-plastic from seaweed, farmed on floating islands.
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distractedSofty
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Re: Plastic replacements

Postby distractedSofty » Wed Feb 09, 2011 11:18 pm UTC

In a world where energy is "free", such as you posit, an obvious alternative to plastics for packaging is aluminium. It's perfectly recyclable (unlike most thermoplastics), naturally abundant, and has the additional benefit that we've already been using it for years.

Aluminium is also well positioned (and has already started) to take over from plastics in other areas, such as electronics casings(admittedly it's at a disadvantage here because it's electrically conductive).

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Re: Plastic replacements

Postby Meteorswarm » Thu Feb 10, 2011 10:23 pm UTC

Rubber is also a natural product, so you could make more things from that.

There are lots of plastics for lots of purposes, though, so I think the replacement would be purpose dependent.
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YamBO
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Re: Plastic replacements

Postby YamBO » Fri Feb 11, 2011 11:51 am UTC

How about shaping the air to form and function like plastic bags?

Air is everywhere and shaping it won't cause harm to environment.

The problem is, how could future people shape and contain air?

userxp
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Re: Plastic replacements

Postby userxp » Fri Feb 11, 2011 4:46 pm UTC

You don't actually need plastic bags. Just use your nanobot swarm to disassemble the molecules of whatever you want to carry and then reassemble them somewhere else.

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Izawwlgood
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Re: Plastic replacements

Postby Izawwlgood » Fri Feb 11, 2011 7:08 pm UTC

Why carry stuff back and forth at all then, why not just have nanobots assemble it where you need it, and dissemble it when your done? Presumably there's dirt where your going.
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Cobramaster
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Re: Plastic replacements

Postby Cobramaster » Fri Feb 11, 2011 11:11 pm UTC

Actually there is very real science working on alternatives to petroleum based plastics, that for those of you into the whole CO2 is evil crowd, is essentially using certain catalysts to react CO2 to form plastics from one of the more readily available sources of carbon. Also variants of the technique can be applied to most carbon-based materials, so really it is a Macro answer to the more popular uses of nanotech.
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YamBO
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Re: Plastic replacements

Postby YamBO » Sat Feb 12, 2011 5:11 am UTC

Forget plastic bags and other bags, WE need poke-balls!


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