Public Release: 

Warren, Mich., researchers receive award for improving automotive plastics

American Chemical Society

A team of chemists, chemical engineers and polymer scientists from the GM R&D Center in Warren, Mich., will be honored June 28 by the world's largest scientific society for developing a new process for making stronger, lighter plastics for motor vehicles. They will receive one of two 2002 Industrial Innovation Awards at the American Chemical Society's Central regional meeting in Ypsilanti, Mich.

"Multidisciplinary teams will be the main force driving the development of the products, materials and technologies that advance civilization in the 21st century," said Eli Pearce, president of the American Chemical Society. "Individual members of the team share knowledge to achieve a common goal, achieving more than each could alone. Thus, the team becomes a whole that is greater than the sum of its parts."

Plastic components for cars and trucks have traditionally been made with substances like talc or glass, which add strength and are relatively lightweight. Automakers have been working on a new class of materials, called nanocomposites, that use molecule-size mineral fillers such as clay for reinforcement instead of glass or talc.

The GM team found that adding more space between the silicate clay sheets improves the filler's dispersion through the plastic's polymer matrix. This new generation of automobile plastics is stronger and lighter, looks better, and gives manufacturers more design flexibility. The team has developed three commercial grades of nanocomposites, the first of which is used on step assists for the 2002 GMC Safari and the Chevrolet Astro vans.

The American Chemical Society's Industrial Innovation Awards recognize individuals and teams whose discoveries and inventions contribute to the commercial success of their companies and enhance our quality of life.

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Paula D. Fasulo is a staff scientist at General Motors Company's R&D and Planning Center. She received a B.S. in chemistry from Lawrence University in Detroit, Mich., in 1980. She resides in Eastpointe, Mich.

David A. Okonski is a senior project engineer in the materials and processing laboratory at General Motors Company's R&D and Planning Center. He received a B.S. in chemical engineering from the Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University in Blacksburg, Va., in 1991; a M.S. in chemical engineering from Wayne State University in 1991; and a M.B.A. from the University of Detroit, Mercy, in 1991. He is currently pursuing a Ph.D. in chemical engineering at the University of Michigan. He resides in Lake Orion, Mich.

Robert A. Ottaviani, Ph.D., is a principal research scientist and manager of the advanced polymers group in the materials and processing laboratory at General Motors Company's R&D and Planning Center. He received a B.S. in chemistry from the University of Delaware in 1965 and a Ph.D. in polymer organic chemistry from the University of Arizona in 1969. He resides in Washington, Mich.

Tadeusz B. Pietrzyk is a senior staff research technician at General Motors Company's R&D and Planning Center. He resides in Sterling Heights, Mich.

William R. Rodgers, Ph.D., is a staff research scientist at General Motors Company's R&D and Planning Center. He received a B.S. in chemistry from Millersville University in Millersville, Pa., in 1980 and a Ph.D. in polymer science and engineering from the University of Akron in 1984. He resides in Sterling Heights, Mich.

EDITOR'S NOTE: The winners will present 20-minute talks about their work on Friday, June 28 at 3:30 p.m. If you would like to attend the awards banquet or presentation, please contact the person listed above.

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