A Portable Sensor for Minimizing Hazardous Waste in the Composite Prepreg Industry

EPA Contract Number: 68D00261
Title: A Portable Sensor for Minimizing Hazardous Waste in the Composite Prepreg Industry
Investigators: Prado, Pablo J.
Small Business: Quantum Magnetics Inc.
EPA Contact: Manager, SBIR Program
Phase: I
Project Period: September 1, 2000 through March 1, 2001
Project Amount: $69,917
RFA: Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) - Phase I (2000) RFA Text |  Recipients Lists
Research Category: Hazardous Waste/Remediation , SBIR - Waste , Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR)


Resin-impregnated fiber bundles (prepregs) are the basis for major segments of the U.S. manufacturing industry. Easily formed into a myriad of shapes, prepregs are then cured with heat and pressure, forming strong yet lightweight products such as aircrafts, bridge structures, pressure vessels, pipes, safety equipment, and sporting goods. Prepreg materials, however, are notoriously unstable, degrading over time due to spontaneous crosslinking. Although degradation is extremely difficult to detect using current technology, it results in unusable end products. Even a single partially degraded section of prepreg, if introduced in a large structure such as a bridge reinforcement system, requires the entire structure to be rebuilt. However, good prepreg material is sometimes wasted due to the difficulty of evaluating its state.

Dissolution of degraded resin from prepreg requires hazardous solvents including MEK and acetone. Disposal of inadequately cured products adds further to the solid waste burden. In addition, manufacture of fresh resin and fiber materials generates further solvent waste. This is particularly negative in cases where the prepreg material is disposed prematurely.

Quantum Magnetics is developing a sensor that should greatly reduce all of the above problems. The sensor is a small magnetic resonance system capable of revealing the degree of crosslinking in resin by measuring the molecular properties electromagnetically. The measurement is rapid, nondestructive, and noncontacting. The system will avert needless destruction of still-serviceable resin. It will allow manufacturers to accelerate the use of prepreg, which shows the initial signs of degradation while it is still serviceable. The system will prevent the use of degraded material in valuable manufactured structures.

This Phase I project will integrate results from several prior development programs at Quantum Magnetics. They plan to assemble and beta-test a hand-held, single-sided, fully automatic resin crosslinking monitoring system. The prior programs include an experimental calibration of the resin crosslink density versus magnetic resonance parameters, several prior single-sided magnetic resonance systems, industrial process control products, and small-scale magnetic resonance instrumentation currently under development.

The Phase I objective is to ascertain the performance parameters in consultation with industrial experts and to finalize the design. In Phase II, the new system will be demonstrated at prepreg manufacturing sites and at end-product sites. Concurrently, Quantum Magnetics intends to introduce the system throughout the prepreg industry nationwide.

Supplemental Keywords:

small business, SBIR, solid waste, hazardous waste, recycling, pollution prevention, engineering, chemistry, EPA., RFA, Scientific Discipline, Toxics, Waste, Sustainable Industry/Business, Chemical Engineering, cleaner production/pollution prevention, Municipal, Environmental Chemistry, Sustainable Environment, Chemistry, HAPS, Technology for Sustainable Environment, Hazardous Waste, Chemistry and Materials Science, Engineering, Hazardous, 33/50, Environmental Engineering, scrap prepreg, portable sensor, detecting degraded prepreg, hazardous solvents used on prepreg, Methyl ethyl ketone (2-Butanone), solid waste, acetone, methyl ethyl ketone, MEK

Progress and Final Reports:

  • Final