NEW YORK — When Christopher W. Macosko talks about polymers, the chemical engineering professor sounds like he's 15 again, building rockets in his parents' garage in Berea, Ohio.
Macosko, 54, won the Society of Plastics Engineers' top honor, the International Award, during Antec '99. His focus has been rheology. In 1970, he and Joseph Starita co-founded Rheometric Scientific, which makes rheometers, instruments that measure polymer flow and elasticity.
``Did you see the movie October Sky? That's my life story,'' he said. The film depicts how the USSR's 1957 launch of the Sputnik satellite energized young men in a West Virginia coal town.
There's no coal in Berea, a suburb of Cleveland. But Sputnik changed how the entire nation viewed science. Science fairs. The space race. Science fiction. It swept up the teenager.
``You got excited about the word chemistry,'' he recalled. ``Reading the word `chemistry,' it would just explode off the page.''
Literally. Macosko and his friends built rockets, even a few small bombs. ``We launched the rockets, and the second stage would start going horizontal across Berea,'' he said.
Macosko started Rheometric Scientific after a doctorate's degree thesis on the subject at Princeton University. ``We made the first real practical, commercial rheometer that got into the industrial labs,'' he said.
Today, thousands of rheometers are in the field.
After a few years, he left to devote his full attention to teaching at the University of Minnesota, where he is a professor of chemical engineering and materials science. Macosko and his students have published more than 300 technical articles. He holds five patents and has written two books.
He married Kathleen Snow, a friend since childhood when their families vacationed together. She accompanied him to the New York Antec, where he gave a speech May 6.
Ron Garritano, vice president of technology at Rheometric Scientific in Piscataway, N.J., said Macosko still gets worked up over polymers. ``He's always been that way. Never gets burned out at all. He's got the same attitude as when he first began,'' Garritano said. ``He looks at each new development as something to get excited about.''
SPE presented other awards May 4 during its Annual Technical Conference in New York:
Joel L. Williams, a medical plastics pioneer, received the John W. Hyatt Award for benefit to society. Williams, a member of the Department of Chemical Engineering at North Carolina State University, also has served as a fellow at Becton Dickinson Research Center in Research Triangle Park, N.C. He holds more than 40 patents, including one for a clarified polypropylene that lets health-care workers view fluids inside PP medical devices, and a prefilled syringe made of clarified PP, which replaced glass.
Rexford H. Bradt, founder of Fiberfil Corp. (now DSM Engineering Plastics of Evansville, Ind.), earned the Fred O. Conley Award for engineering and technology. After World War II, Bradt invented the process of using glass fibers to reinforce thermoplastics, according to SPE. After proving that a fiber-reinforced thermoplastic could be extruded into finished products, he developed a material for injection molding and established Fiberfil in Warsaw, Ind.
Jerome B. Lando, a faculty member since 1965 at Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland, received the Education Award. Lando is a professor of macromolecular science. He initiated the creation of an undergraduate program at CWRU, leading to a bachelor's degree in engineering with a polymer science major, which SPE said was the first such program to win accreditation by the Engineering Committee for Professional Development. In 1994, Lando won SPE's Research Award. He has written 180 papers and one book.
The co-founders of custom injection molder Courtesy Corp., Walter J. Kreiseder and Gerald J. Sommers, picked up the Business Management Award. In the past 24 years, the partners established Courtesy as a leader in high-speed molding. The company evolved from Kreiseder's garage to several facilities totaling 800,000 square feet.
Robert J. Samuels, professor of chemical engineering at the Georgia Institute of Technology in Atlanta, earned the Research Award for his work studying the intimate relations between the structure, processing and properties of polymers. He has written 12 book chapters and 61 papers, and holds one patent.
SPE also named two best-product award winners. The Versapak sprayer from Black & Decker Canada Inc. is a battery-powered sprayer for residential lawn and garden use, made with injection molded and blow molded parts. The sprayer, which won the best consumer product award, was developed by four designers: Gabriel Concari, Colin Dyke, Jake Prosper and Jerry Moscovitch.
The industrial product winner was the Cycloid ACS, a wheel/hub-mounted air compressor — entirely powered by the motion of a turning wheel — that continuously maintains tire pressure on trucks and trailers. The product, from Cycloid Co. of Cranberry Township, near Mars, Pa., was designed by Grant Renier, A. Mervyn Carse and James Patterson. It makes extensive use of fiber-reinforced plastics.