Polymer-based protection for electrical equipment Electromagnetic interference causes problems for electrical devices. EU-funded researchers developed novel plastics-based protective materials that should open a new market for small European plastics manufacturers. Industrial Technologies © Thinkstock Electronic equipment relies on controlled and predictable flow of current and changes in voltages for reliable and repeatable function. However, the equipment is subject to interference from electromagnetic fields generated by nearby electrical devices (so-called electromagnetic interference, or EMI). EMI shielding essentially blocks the EMI from reaching the device of interest by providing a barrier of conductive or magnetic materials. Metals are commonly used. European researchers sought to enhance the competitiveness of small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) working in the plastics sector by developing sustainable plastic-based products for protection against EMI and electrostatic discharge. Funding provided by the EU for the Polycond project enabled them to do so. Scientists focused on composites (blends) of engineering polymers and inherently conductive polymers (ICPs) as well as hybrid systems of ICPs with conductive nanotubes. Technical goals included enhanced conductivity, reduction in weight of shielding materials by more than half, and reduction in cost by approximately 90 %. Scientists also sought to develop eco-friendly processing techniques capable of reducing production time by 80 %. The Polycond consortium produced and characterised nanotubes and produced prototype materials with low resistivity (high conductivity). They developed extrusion machinery for polymer processing and characterised the first batches of scaled-up composites providing important insight into modifications for enhanced conductivity. Results suggest the potential for a wide range of materials with tailor-made electrical and physical properties at reasonable cost. European SMEs are thus positioned to move into the high value-added and knowledge-based production of conductive plastic compounds for electrical shielding applications thanks to Polycond project work.