Environmentally Benign Injection MoldingEPA Grant Number: GR833355
Alternative EPA Grant Number: R833355
Title: Environmentally Benign Injection Molding
Investigators: Gong, Shaoqin , Turng, Lih-Sheng
Institution: University of Wisconsin - Milwaukee
EPA Project Officer: Hahn, Intaek
Project Period: August 1, 2007 through July 31, 2010
Project Amount: $338,401
RFA: Greater Research Opportunities: Environmentally Benign Manufacturing and Processing (2006) RFA Text | Recipients Lists
Research Category: Nanotechnology , Pollution Prevention/Sustainable Development , Sustainability
This research aims to develop the technology, commercial applications, and life cycle assessments for high-performance microcellular (nano-) composites that use sustainable biobased materials via an environmentally benign manufacturing process. This project will serve to conserve energy and natural resources, reduce waste and toxic substance production, protect our environment, and strengthen the economy.
Due to the adverse environmental impact generated by petroleum-based plastics, efforts were made in recent years to develop sustainable and environmentally friendly biobased polymers. However, these materials in their neat resin forms tend to exhibit inferior material properties, narrow processing windows, and relatively high material costs that limit their applications. Among various biobased polymers, this research will focus on bacterial polyhydroxyalkanoates (PHAs), especially poly(hydroxybutyrate-co-hydroxyvalerate) (PHBV). High-performance biobased polymer composites and nanocomposites that incorporate millimeter-, micro- and nano-scale biofibers in various reinforcing forms and loading levels will be developed and characterized.
In addition, an environmentally benign process based on the microcellular injection molding concept will be employed to realize lightweight, dimensionally stable components with less material and energy and no emission of hazardous air pollutants. This novel process, which uses supercritical atmospheric gases like CO2 and N2 as a natural plasticizer and foaming agent, enhances processability, reduces component cost, and will potentially improve the impact strength and fatigue life of biobased composites. The effects of process parameters, filler types, loading levels, and interfacial chemistries on cell morphology and part performance will be investigated via design of experiment (DOE) techniques. Analytical modeling and computer simulation will be developed to gain insight into the interrelationship of materials, processes, microstructures, and property enhancements. The environmental impacts of the proposed composite material systems and manufacturing processes will be assessed using life cycle analysis (LCA).
Successful execution of this project will lead to broader applications of biobased "green" composites and promote environmentally benign mass-production processes. This ultimately will protect our environment and help the U.S. agriculture, forestry, and plastics industries to gain a competitive edge in the global market.