2002 Progress Report: Composite Resins and Adhesives from PlantsEPA Grant Number: R829576
Title: Composite Resins and Adhesives from Plants
Investigators: Wool, R. P.
Institution: University of Delaware
EPA Project Officer: Richards, April
Project Period: January 1, 2002 through December 31, 2004
Project Period Covered by this Report: January 1, 2002 through December 31, 2003
Project Amount: $325,000
RFA: Technology for a Sustainable Environment (2001) RFA Text | Recipients Lists
Research Category: Sustainability , Pollution Prevention/Sustainable Development
The objective of this research project is to develop the fundamental science and engineering in support of recent technology breakthroughs in the field of high performance and low-cost composite resins and adhesives from plant oils for new liquid molding and adhesion applications. The research focuses on: (1) determination of the optimal Fatty Acid Distribution (FAD) function of chemically functionalized plant oils (soy, corn, linseed, olive, sunflower) using simulation, vector percolation theory, and experiment, to minimize the recently discovered fragility of crosslinked triglyceride networks in the matrix; (2) natural and glass fiber sizing or coupling agent development, using di-functionalized high oleic genetically engineered oils, applied in situ in the liquid molding manufacturing step (resin transfer molding [RTM] and vacuum-assisted RTM [VARTM]) to tailor the fiber-matrix interface strength; (3) rubber toughening particle (Low Tg) development using the new water-based pressure sensitive adhesive (PSA) micro-latex particle technology, applied during liquid molding to enhance impact strength and promote self-healing of damage using high energy ion-cluster surfaces developed for surface molecular contamination (SMC); (4) interfacial and matrix toughening (High Tg) agent development using chemically modified Lignin; (5) natural fiber preform binder development using a highly branched structure of the PSA latex particles (linear chains); and (6) VARTM manufacturing of the first large structures using natural fiber preforms and the optimized bio-based resins in support of the Shaped Engineered Wood Substitute (SEWS) materials proposed for new housing construction and civil infrastructure.
The relationship between genetically engineered fatty acid distribution functions of plant oils and the resulting strength and stiffness of such chemically functionalized oils has been analyzed by vector percolation theory, computer simulation, and experiment. The results have been submitted to Macromolecules. The first latex rubber particles were made by polymerization of oleic methyl esters derived from soy oil. Elastomers and their properties are being characterized at the DuPont Elastomers laboratory in Newark, DE. Also, microphase separating soyoil resins were prepared from soy oil and caster oil by alcoholysis, with pentaerythriol followed by maleinization. A paper is in preparation, and a patent has been submitted. Lignin modification successfully was completed to make it soluble in chemically modified soyoil. There currently are two papers in press. The first large hurricane resistant housing structures were prepared from natural fibers and soy resin. The natural fibers consisted of recycled newspaper, chicken feathers, and flax. New low dielectric constant composites suited to electronic materials applications were made from chicken feather fibers and soy resin. The results are featured in Discover Magazine, July 2003. Pyrolysis of the chicken feathers also resulted in a new high modulus reinforcement material. Papers were submitted for publication, and a patent application is pending. Nanocomposites were made from soy resin reinforced with carbon nanotubes and nanoclays. A paper has been submitted for publication.
Future activities are to: (1) complete fundamental relations between oil structure and resin properties; (2) develop high-performance nanocomposites from nanoclay and soy resin; (3) expand work with natural fibers, chicken feathers, and lignin; (4) build a hurricane resistant house from natural fibers and improved resin; (5) synthesize new low-cost, high-performance soy resins; (6) make the world's fastest computer circuit boards from chicken feathers; and (7) give invited talks on this research at national and international meetings.