Nanocomposite Anchored PlasticizersEPA Contract Number: 68D01045
Title: Nanocomposite Anchored Plasticizers
Investigators: Myers, Andrew
Small Business: TDA Research Inc.
EPA Contact: Richards, April
Project Period: April 1, 2001 through September 1, 2001
Project Amount: $70,000
RFA: Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) - Phase I (2001) RFA Text | Recipients Lists
Research Category: SBIR - Pollution Prevention , Nanotechnology , Pollution Prevention/Sustainable Development , SBIR - Nanotechnology , Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR)
Description:Plasticizers are small, often volatile molecules that are added to hard, stiff plastics to make them softer and more flexible. Unfortunately, because they are not directly bound to the polymer chain, they can migrate to the surface and escape from the plasticized material. Because many plasticizers are toxic, they create a health risk when they leach out. This particularly is a problem for polyvinyl chloride (PVC), which often is used in toys for infants. Plasticizer loss also leads to brittle and unusable materials. A system that immobilized the plasticizing agent within a polymer without compromising other necessary physical properties would find a ready market.
Permanence characterizes the tendency of a plasticizer to remain in a polymer. The proposed research effort will develop a new plasticizer system that is characterized by high permanence and longer product lifetimes, and that eliminates the potential for hazardous dermal and/or ingestive exposure from plasticized polymers. The effort initially will target PVC, the highest-volume plasticized commodity plastic, but methods developed by TDA Research, Inc. (TDA), will be easily transferable to other commodity plastics.
TDA proposes to increase the permanence of plasticizers by attaching the plasticizer to the surface of a nanoparticle. The anchored plasticizer still affects the glassy-to-rubbery transition of the host material, yet the permanence of the plasticizer is substantially increased. An added benefit is that the plasticizer-functionalized nanoparticle also improves the barrier properties of the host material and may improve other mechanical and physical properties as well. Phase I research will prepare, incorporate, and test a new plasticizer system for PVC. Phase II efforts will optimize the modified PVC and prepare the material for commercialization via collaborations with TDA's industrial partners.
Plasticizers increase the flexibility and softness of a material, are incorporated into many modern high-volume plastics, and are one of the largest segments of the plastics additives market. Plastic modifiers, including plasticizers and impact modifiers, was a $9 billion business in 1997. If successful, the nanoparticle-anchored plasticizers could have an extremely large commercial impact, and enable the production of safer, longer-lived plastic materials.