By pointing out the use of the same polymers in completely different contexts, the interaction between research, societal developments and industry becomes more obvious to the students.
The use of polymers in medical applications is extensive. Dialysis machines use a semi-permeable tubing in the treatment of toxic waste material thus alleviating the problems associated with kidney failure. Gas permeable contact lenses allow more oxygen to reach the cornea thus preventing swelling of the eye. Polymeric membranes incorporated with silver nanoparticles can be used in the treatment of wounds and infections. Hydrogels which in the process of swelling in water have the ability to release compounds from their matrix can act as efficient drug delivery systems. Sensor research uses semi-permeable polymer membranes in monitoring air quality and detection of certain gases like carbon monoxide. Both impermeable and semi-permeable polymeric membranes are also used in the food industry e.g. in food packaging, meat packaging (e.g. Western Plastics in Ireland). Many clothes are based on polymers, and those which are most relevant to this unit include waterproof breathable jackets that display resistance to rain passing through the membrane but allow water vapour to be transported outwards using solid state diffusion e.g. Gore-Tex