Material Science Q & A

Questions & Answers Regarding Material Science

Question: Many fibers are synthesized from a petrochemical base (from oil---a fossil fuel). Is it possible to make a comfortable, durable polo shirt from fibers that are synthesized from corn, a completely renewable chemical feedstock?

Answer: A Benson, MN company is making shirts from corn that you can wear for work or play. The shirts look and feel like cotton, but they wick moisture away from the body just like shirts made from high-end synthetic fabrics, says Don Lenz, CEO of Future Products, Inc. The fiber is called Ingeo (In-gee-o), which means "ingredients from the earth." A totally renewable product made from corn, Ingeo contains no petroleum byproducts like synthetics and other fabrics. It doesn't peel, shrink, wrinkle or stain. It's 100 percent biodegradable, making it the perfect "green" fabric, Lenz says. "It's the fabric of the century." Cargill Inc. makes Ingeo at its new $120 million NatureWorks plant near Blair, NE. It mills corn kernels into starch, then sugar. Enzymes ferment the sugar to produce lactic acid, which is transformed into pellets and extruded into a fiber that can be used in everything from clothing and carpets to packaging containers.

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Question: I met a number of representatives from your organization at the ATE conference in Washington in October. At the time they mentioned a cake baking lab that could be used in material science. I have searched your web site but unfortunately have not been able to find it. Would it be possible to get a copy or a link?

Answer: This is your lucky day! MatEdU has just posted the full presentation of "Materials Processing, a Piece of Cake" in the MatEdU Modules section of website.
Question: I am building the Strength Testing machine as shown in "Properties of Fibers and Fabrics" module. I am having a problem finding a luggage scale. Any suggestions?

Answer: A weight scale, found at a local hardware store, or a game scale that can be found at a sporting goods store could be substituted.
Question: With the new Boeing 787 drawing such interest for my students, I would like to demonstrate composite airfoils and their uses in aviation. Any suggestions?

Answer: Go to the MatEdu website home page and click on Curriculum Modules button and which takes you to the CWIS National Digital Library. Then do a search for curriculum/labs with key words including "composites" and "airfoils". You will find a lab developed by the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory (PNNL) on this subject.
Question: I have been recommended to a workshop you do for educators. How do I get more information?

Answer: Check the Materials in Stem website at for more information on this annual educator’s event.
Question: I am looking for something to "grab" my students into the composites world and help them understand this technology and make a lasting impression. Do you have any ideas?

Answer: Try the PNNL MST Composites 8.35 Peanut Brittle exercise in the composites curriculum modules. This will surely peak their interest and their appetite.