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Name:  adam a price
Status: N/A
Age: N/A
Location: N/A
Country: N/A
Date: 1999 


Question:
I would like all of the information you have concerning how to make plastic so I can go into the toy business and make lots of money -- I will share 10% of my profits--(if it works!!).



Replies:
Sorry, this is a non-profit org. Better go talk up your idea to mattel...

Just because my name is topper, that doesn't mean I make toys (and I'm probably the only one old enough to even remember the Topper Toys company).

prof topper


Hey, 10% of nuthin' is still nuthin'. You have no idea what a difficult task you are contemplating. To make a useful industrial plastic you need to come up with a cheap material with very weird properties. Specifically, molecules of the material have to react with one another and end up joined, so that you can make huge long molecules (polymers) that are chains of the molecules you started out with (monomers). For example, ethylene, a common component of natural gas, reacts to form very long polyethylene molecules, the stuff out of which plastic bags and milk bottles are made.

Now the key point here is that no chemical reactions "go to completion." That is, if I get 100 molecules of A together with 100 molecules of B, I will always get less than 100 molecules of AB, with some left over A and B. The reason is essentially that each time A bumps into B there's always some small chance it won't react, a chance that gets smaller but never vanishes as the reaction gets more favorable. If I want to get decent-sized plastic molecules I need to get a *million* or so monomers to all hook together, so the material I'm looking for has to react with itself so well that only 1 out of every million monomers will be left over when I'm done the reaction. (The reaction must go "99.9999% to completion.") There are almost no chemical reactions known that do this, and the few that do are the basis for the entire plastics industry and all life on Earth. (Example: wood and cotton are made of cellulose, which is a chain of 15,000 glucoses -- sugar molecules -- strung together.) The search for new chemical reactions leading to totally new plastics goes on, because of the huge ($billions) payoff, but your odds are better playing the lottery.

christopher grayce



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