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The New Fiver: Polymers defeat paper in the money business

6 September 2016 No Comment

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The new fiver note Mod

The New Five Pound Note:

On the 13th of September 2016 polymers will officially become legal tender in the United Kingdom in the form of the new Bank of England £5 note. The new polymer banknotes will give us cleaner, safer and stronger notes in comparison to the current £5 note, which is made from cotton paper.

We will now be able to relax, safe in the knowledge that leaving our £5 banknotes in the pocket of our jeans during a washing machine cycle will not cause them to disintegrate. They will also be more flexible, which means we can crumple them in our pockets or fold and unfold them as many times as we like – they will not lose their shape. Thanks to the use of a polymer substrate the banknotes will last longer and remain cleaner during everyday use – they are expected to last at least 2.5 times longer than the current notes making them more environmentally friendly.

So, how do these magical, strong banknotes work?

How can a plastic be like paper but stronger, cleaner and safer?

Well, technically speaking the new Fiver is made from a transparent plastic film, a polymer sheet produced by Innovia Films. Innovia film image

The plastic film is coated with multiple ink layers to give the requisite printed design while allowing the inclusion of a ‘see-through window’ or clear portion, which is one of the new sophisticated security features implemented on the new banknote. The banknote substrate produced by Innovia is called the Guardian substrate and it is made with the base film Clarity®C. This film is a high performance, biaxially oriented polypropylene film (BOPP). The molecular characteristics of this polymer are responsible for the beneficial physical properties and quality of the banknotes.

When dealing with polymers, molecular characteristics such as molecular weight, molecular weight distribution and structure have a huge impact on the resulting physical properties. Thus, the formulation of the polymer for the perfect banknote requires an in-depth study of the polymer structure and its associated characteristics. In the polymer world we can analyse a polymer’s structure by using a Multi-Detection Gel Permeation Chromatography/Size Exclusion Chromatography (GPC/SEC) system such as the new OMNISEC from Malvern Instruments. From this technique it is possible to get information about absolute molecular weight and molecular structure, allowing these properties to be correlated with, and engineered for, key aspects of performance.

In the production of the new banknote the polymer used, polypropylene, has been analysed by GPC and, in particular, High-Temperature GPC (HT-GPC), to help develop the perfect polymer for this demanding application. Thus, behind the magical banknote there is a great deal of effort and science that is required to give the deep understanding necessary to produce a polymer with the appropriate characteristics. This requires both scientific expertise and analytical equipment, with Multi-detection SEC one of the main analytical techniques used in this specific application but also in the world of polymers as a whole

OMNISECIf you want to know more about how our new OMNISEC system can help you develop the perfect polymer for your application, click the link below and discover all the information you can get from the analysis of your polymer.

Read the article “Bank of England cashier opens new film line for polymer banknote” by Leanne Taylor

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