December 24, 2020

The Gift of the Methyl Group Magi


A CPG twist on a holiday classic, with happier results

Paraxanthine and Theophylline sat at their Thanksgiving table.
“What have I got to be thankful for?” grumbled Xan. “No one’s ever heard of me. Caffeine gets all the hype, even though I’m more potent with less of the negative side effects. I want to be recognized for being better at blocking adenosine receptors. I want to see my formula on t-shirts and mugs! I want to be the name people whisper desperately as they stumble towards their kitchens.”
“If you don’t like your life, change it,” suggested Theo.
“Self-help mantras are well and good for humans, but what’s an organic compound to do? The holidays are so depressing. Another year gone by, and what have I got to show for it?”
While Xan continued to whine about the winter of her discontent, Theo googled “Formulation and Chemical Synthesis” and requested a quote from Cambridge Polymer Group.
Theo announced, “Xan, I’m going out now to get you a present. I’ll be back in 10-15 days.”
This revelation distracted Xan from her navel gazing. “Theo is getting me a gift??? I wonder what it could be?”
Ten days later, FedEx left a package on Xan’s doorstep. She rushed out to grab the box, which was almost stolen by porch pirates.
“Maybe it’s Theo’s present,” Xan thought excitedly. She opened the package and nearly lost her electrons when Theo jumped out of the box.
“Theo, is that really you?” Xan eyed him suspiciously, “You look a little different…”
“Here Xan,” said the Caffeine formerly known as Theo, “Have a carbon dihydride. If you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em.”
“Oh, thanks so much,” gushed Xan, as she accepted his gift. “But now I’m Caffeine and you’re not, and I have nothing to give you.”
“That’s OK, Xan-I mean, Caff. I gave you my position 1 carbon dihydride, so I’m Theobromine now. We can be chocolate together.”
Box of chocolates.jpg

Total ion chromatogram of 4 chocolate samples showing peaks of caffeine and theobromine in water extraction.

Posted by CatherineCerasuolo
July 13, 2020

New Standard on Qualification of Polymeric Materials Used for Additive Manufacturing


ISO and ASTM are drafting a new standard on qualification of polymeric materials used for additive manufacturing using powder bed fusion (ISO/ASTM DIS 52925:2020). This standard is focused on polyamide 12 and 11, but the standard may be applicable to other polymeric materials.

The standard discusses the following test methods:

  1. Particle size
  2. Residual monomer
  3. Relative humidity
  4. Melt flow index
  5. Molecular weight (either by GPC or dilute solution viscometry)
  6. Melting and crystallization temperature by DSC

These tests are all performed by Cambridge Polymer Group, and can be used to qualify new material or requalify used material. Contact us for more information.

Posted by CatherineCerasuolo
July 8, 2020

Reprocessing Personal Protective Equipment


The ASTM workshop on Reprocessing Personal Protective Equipment (September 9-10, 2020, virtual workshop) is looking for presentations on the following topics:

  • Methods/guides/practices to address reprocessing single use PPE and reusable PPE (including N95 respirators, personal face masks, protective clothing and coverings, etc.):
    • Current issues with decontaminating single use PPE
        • Cleaning
        • Index matching
        • Collection and distribution
        • Loss of efficacy
        • Degradation of components
        • Tracking number of re-uses
    • Cleaning/decontamination/sterilization
        • New sterilization/disinfection methods – chlorine dioxide, etc.
        • Assessing performance of the reprocessed device, including feedback from healthcare providers who have used reprocessed devices
        • Effects of bioburden on re-use, for disinfection and perception
    • Standards used
        • Existing: ASTM, NIOSH and other
          • Include limitations, such as multiple decontaminations
          • Novel test methods introduced by researchers during the COVID-19 outbreak
  • Methods/guides/practices for producing and or assessing performance of devices and device components that are in short supply
    • e.g. masks, respirators, and face shields
    • Both traditional device designs and novel designs using materials that are at hand
    • Redesigning single use PPE for potential re-use during surges
    • Discussion of FDA Emergency Use Authorizations (EUAs),
        • For current EUAs, the impact on supply chain and on products/methods covered by current EUAs.
        • Considerations needed to continue product access upon EUA expiration including impacts on the supply chain and on products/methods covered by current EUAs.
  • Share perspectives on how existing standards helped you in addressing device shortages or how they could have been of more assistance

Abstract Submittal

To participate in the workshop, your 300-word abstract is due no later than July 26, 2020. Please see the ASTM symposium page for submission instructions.

Posted by CatherineCerasuolo
June 1, 2020

Like Water off a Thorny Devil's Back

Thorny Devil.jpg

Australian thorny devil 

Lizard Surface Energy Wetting

The Australian thorny devil (meloch horridus) is a desert-going lizard that has developed an impressive application of transport phenomenon to make the most of a limited source of water in the arid regions it inhabits.[1] The lizard has a skin surface that contains a continuous series of micro-channels that are capable of transporting water by capillary action towards the lizard’s mouth. As the lizard crawls over and under vegetation that contains droplets of dew, it effectively collects this water all over its body, allowing it to drink on the run. The lizard’s mouth, suitable for eating ants, is not adapted to drink water directly, necessitating this curious mode of drinking.

Capillary Transport in Nature

Capillary transport is quite common in nature. It is the mechanism by which water is moved from the roots of trees up to its leaves.  It is the means that our eyes drain tear fluid through the narrow tear ducts in our eyelids. This ability results from the attractive nature that water molecules have for each other, termed the forces of cohesion. This cohesion leads to surface tension, or the resistance of the surface of a liquid to an external force, such as a solid object penetrating the liquid. This tensile force causes the liquid to form a meniscus when placed in a narrow capillary, and if sufficient adhesion occurs between the water and the capillary wall, the water will be pulled along in the capillary, even overcoming the force of gravity if the capillary diameter is sufficiently small.

While this mode of drinking may appear convenient, one could argue that the quaffable benefits of the thorny devil's capillary-driven drinking mechanical are outstripped by the social liability of its crenulated dermis. But from a surface science point of view, the thorny devil has arrived at a low energy, high efficiency method of harvesting water.

For more information on surface energy measurements, contact Cambridge Polymer Group or visit our website.


[1] Comanns et al. “Adsorption and movement of water by skin of the Australian thorny devil (Agamidae: Moloch horridus),” (2017)


Posted by MaryOsward
May 18, 2020

CPG Returns to Fully Open Status

CPG is now fully open and able to work on ALL projects; we are no longer limited to COVID-19 response or projects essential for medical emergency staff. Turnaround times may still be affected due to the need to social distance.

Cambridge Polymer Group is in compliance with Massachusetts Governor Baker's May 18th re-opening schedule. CPG has been deemed an essential business, and has implemented all safety precautions stipulated by the re-opening order, as well as additional safety measures.

CPG COVID-19 Visitor Policy

Cambridge Polymer Group is committed to providing a safe environment for our employees and visitors. For the protection of all, we’ve implemented the following requirements:

Upon entering the facility, all persons must:

  • Have a face mask or covering
  • Undergo a temperature and symptom screening
  • Promptly wash hands
  • Comply with social distancing practices at all times

While in the laboratory, all persons must:

  • Wear proper personal protective equipment including gloves and safety glasses
  • Wash hands upon exiting

In addition to these requirements, Cambridge Polymer Group has increased the frequency of cleaning and disinfection of the workplace. These policies and procedures have been implemented to reduce transmission risks and protect our workforce. Your cooperation is appreciated.

Dropping Off Samples

If you are dropping off samples and do not need to enter our office or lab space, follow these steps:

  1. Notify your CPG contact of the time you intend to drop off samples.
  2. Enter the 56 Roland Street building at the North Lobby entrance. Take the stairs or the elevator to the third floor. Follow the signs to Cambridge Polymer Group.
  3. Leave your samples and SSF form on the stool to the left of CPG's door, under the USPS/UPS/Fedex sign. We will retrieve them after you leave.

Best wishes,

Cambridge Polymer Group

Posted by CatherineCerasuolo
April 21, 2020

Mask-Making Tips from Crafty Material Scientists


CPG employees are making masks for friends, family, neighbors, hospital workers, and the Boston Mask Initiative. Because most stores are closed due to COVID-19, CPG mask makers put their material selection skills to good use while scavenging household supplies. We pooled our mask-making and mask-wearing experiences into the following suggestions:

#1 - Fit Is Most Important

Better fitting masks are both more effective at preventing coronavirus transmission and less likely to fog glasses, so look for a pattern/design with less opening in the top and sides. Gaps can decrease a mask's effectiveness by over 60%. Your mask should start at the bridge of your nose and end underneath your chin. If your mask does not fit properly, do not keep wearing it.

#2 - Use Two Layers, at a Minimum

The CDC recommends that masks should be made of at least two layers. One of our scientists suggests pellon as an inner layer, but acknowledges that it is hard to find in stock. She says any material made of non-woven polypropylene will work as an inner filter (such as bags from running shoe stores).

Cloth Mask Filtration from ACS Nano

Filtration efficiency of a cloth mask comprised of high thread count cotton (left/green) and one layer of flannel or two layers of silk or two layers of chiffon (right/blue). Credit: ACS Nano

A recent University of Chicago study found that a hybrid of mask materials provided significant protection from aerosol particles. For the outside of the mask, the study recommends using one layer of tightly woven cotton as a mechanical filter. For the inside of the mask, either flannel (one layer), or silk (two layers), or chiffon (two layers) functions as an electrostatic filter, though not quite as effectively as an N95. For an explanation of how electrostatic filters work, see our N95 app note.

Where to find tightly woven cotton around your house? Look for 400-600 count cotton pillow cases or sheets, quilting cotton, or cotton dish towels.

Unless you know a fashionista willing to let you cut up expensive clothing, it's unlikely you have access to spare silk and chiffon for the inner section of your mask. Flannel is more commonly available; bed sheets or pajamas  are two sources you may already have. The downside of flannel is that it tends to be warm - it might be worth ordering some chiffon for summer masks.

#3 - Secure with Elastic or Fabric Ties

Elastic has been sold out from very early in the pandemic. Our mask-making scientists got creative, using hair band elastics, elastic beading cord, bungee cords (the type used for swim goggles), and pieces of straps from old swim suits. 

Other mask makers used fabric ties instead of elastic loops. Some of our staff found that masks with ties are more comfortable on the ears and easier to adjust than masks with elastic loops.


Those who prefer elastic but dislike sore ears sewed buttons onto surgical caps or headbands, or used 3D printed straps. The elastic is wrapped around the button or the 3D printed guard instead of the ear.

#4 - Metal Nose Clip

A metal nose clip shapes the mask to your facial contours and reduces lens fogging. Possible sources of metal include: hair barrettes, disposable foil baking pans, pipe cleaners, paper clips, and plastic coated metal twist ties (such as the kinds used for bread or for vine training). If your mask contains metal, DO NOT MICROWAVE to disinfect. Instead, hand or machine-wash your mask or leave it in direct sunlight. 

#5 - Padding

Some CPG staff decided to pad the nose section of the mask with foam, both for improved seal and comfort over the course of a lab shift. Where to find foam around your house? One possible source is shipping wrap from all of those packages you've been ordering. If you have any broken headphones lying around (don't worry, we won't tell Marie Kondo), they may contain memory foam. Insoles from old sneakers are another potential source of memory foam, but may be too smelly to use.

#6 - Extra Stocking Layer

To further enhance your mask's seal and boost its effectiveness, a recent Northeastern University study recommends wearing a nylon stocking layer over a cloth mask. The study suggests cutting 8-10 inches off the leg of a Q size stocking.

Disclaimer: the Northeastern study was released prior to peer review. However, it was inspired by previous research which found a layer of hosiery over a homemade mask was effective at filtering fallout particles from the 1979 Three Mile Island nuclear disaster.

Some CPG staff decided the stocking layer was too tight and difficult to breathe through (though perhaps we just have larger-than-average heads). In one case, the intense seal around the mouth led to the wetting of both layers of mask cotton with breath moisture. It is essential that your mask remain dry, since natural fibers can swell when wet, impacting mask performance. In our extremely casual observation, wearing the nylon layer did not seem to prevent glasses fogging, despite the improved seal.

#7 - Surgical Tape

Use surgical or sports tape to seal the top of your mask to your face to reduce fogging. DO NOT USE packing or duct tape which can cause skin abrasions. Surgical and sports tape adhesive is designed to allow transmission of air and moisture through the adhesive system, which minimizes skin irritation.

#8 - Glasses Positioning 

Positioning your glasses/lab goggles on top of the mask can also decrease fogging. Adding either 1) a metal nose clip or 2) padding to the bridge of the nose or 3) bias tape to the top of the mask can help to create a perch for your glasses or goggles to rest on. Most CPG employees found wearing glasses or goggles on top of the mask (with or without a perch) to be the most effective method of reducing or eliminating lens fog.

After taking your mask off, clean your glasses before putting them back on your face since they were just touching the contaminated part of your mask.

Posted by CatherineCerasuolo
April 16, 2020

Cambridge Polymer Group 3D Prints COVID-19 Equipment

PRUSARidesShotgun.jpgCambridge Polymer Group owns two 3D printers, a PRUSA and a Leapfrog Xeed. We use them for making prototypes and creating custom instrument parts. When Massachusetts Governor Baker issued the shelter-in-place order on March 23rd, we brought our printers home, so that we could join the worldwide movement to alleviate the shortage of personal protective equipment caused by the coronavirus pandemic. The PRUSA called shotgun, so the Leapfrog Xeed had to ride in the backseat.

In the weeks that followed, CPG employees continued to work remotely, and some of us returned to the lab to work on COVID-19 related projects. During down time, our CPG 3D printer operators set to work producing PPE, including CPAP brackets, face shields and ear guards.



Cambridge Polymer printed brackets for CPAP units shipped to Italy in anticipation of infants suffering from COVID-19.



CPG also printed face shields for Massachusetts healthcare workers.



While working in the lab on COVID-19 related projects, CPG scientists discovered firsthand that elastic mask loops cause ear friction. Our CPG 3D printer operators came to the rescue with ear savers. Invented by a 12-year-old Canadian Scout, the 3D printed guard pulls the elastic away from the ears, preventing the elastic from rubbing the ears raw and improving mask fit.


Print fails.jpg

"Virtually nothing comes out right the first time. Failures, repeated failures, are finger posts on the road to achievement. One fails forward toward success." - Charles F. Kettering

Posted by CatherineCerasuolo