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Plastic wires rival copper at 20 percent the weight

PORTLAND, Ore.— ElectriPlast conductive polymer enables wiring that is 80 percent lighter than copper and yet has the same conductivity, according to its inventors Integral Technologies (Bellingham, Wash.).

By blending micron-scale fibers coated with metal into a polymer matrix, ElectriPlast can be molded, extruded, or formed into any shape—from traditional wires to flat cables to entire surfaces. Applications include lightweight wire replacement, molded wiring harnesses and antennas built into device packages.

The conductive fibers in the ElectriPlast material are 7 microns to 12 microns in diameter, and claim a broader bandwidth than solid metal cables by virtue of having more surface area for a given gauge. The metal fibers are plated with copper, silver or gold and grouped into multiple fiber bundles that characterize its equivalent wire gauge. The material is supplied in pellets, which Integral says can be molded in a hot-molding machine.

Integral claims its conductive polymer blend is less expensive but just as conductive as high-quality metal cabling. If manufactured using ElectriPlast, cables and harnesses will be significantly lighter, prompting cable makers to evaluate it for musicians, audiophiles, theaters, arenas, and touring companies. Integral expects to be announcing customers by 2009.

Integral also has a version for integrated antennas called PlasTenna; the company expects to soon be announcing design wins from mobile computing and cellular phone device makers. By integrating the antenna into the case of the wireless device, designers using “plastennas” can eliminate a current design constraint. Integral has pretested antennas for 2.4 GHz, 1.9 GHz, 1.56 GHz, 850 MHz, 400 MHz, 148 MHz and 137 MHz.

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