An Australian plastics scientist has won the inaugural Prime Minister's Prize for New Innovators for creating a process that allows manufacturers to replace glass components with light-weight plastic.
Dr Colin Hall and his colleagues at the University of South Australia’s Future Industries Institute combined micron thin layers of plastics to develop a material that can replace glass in cars, aircraft, spacecraft, and even whitegoods – making them lighter and more efficient.
One of the first applications for the technology has been the creation of shatter-proof plastic side mirrors for cars that are now being exported to the US. The mirrors are made in Adelaide, South Australia, by SMR Automotive and have earned AUD$160m (£101m, US$123m) in exports to date.
Over the last five years, the Ford Motor Company has purchased more than 1.6 million assemblies for the plastic side mirrors for use on its F-Series trucks.
Car makers have long searched for new ways to reduce the body weight of vehicles and the car-wing mirror design weighs a fraction of the conventional glass product.