Mechanical and Environmental Characterization of Biobased Composites Through Experiments and Numerical Modeling

EPA Grant Number: FP917485
Title: Mechanical and Environmental Characterization of Biobased Composites Through Experiments and Numerical Modeling
Investigators: Miller, Sarah A
Institution: Stanford University
EPA Project Officer: Zambrana, Jose
Project Period: September 1, 2012 through August 31, 2015
Project Amount: $126,000
RFA: STAR Graduate Fellowships (2012) RFA Text |  Recipients Lists
Research Category: Academic Fellowships , Fellowship - Civil Engineering


Landfill consumption resulting from current construction practices could be reduced by replacing conventional materials with biobased composites that can be formed from naturally cultivated materials and are biodegradable. The objectives of this research include assessing manufacturing techniques and predicting service behavior of biobased composites. These assessments and predictions will be applied to lifecycle analysis to develop tools for engineering materials to have favorable mechanical properties and environmental impacts.


To develop tools for composite design, several tasks will be performed on biobased composites. Biobased composites will be characterized based on mechanical properties, determined through experimental testing, and characterized based on environmental impact properties, determined through life-cycle assessments. Service life predictions for material behavior will be based on deflection controlled scenarios, and creep testing will be conducted to assess long-term material performance. These service life predictions will be used to provide a use phase for life-cycle assessments, which when used in conjunction with other properties assessed, will provide a foundation for engineering materials with superior mechanical and environmental qualities.

Expected Results:

This research will aid in validating the application of envisioned closed-loop biobased composites for construction applications through characterization and modeling of these materials. Different composite constituents can lead to a range of mechanical properties and environmental impacts for a composite. Due to the novel nature of the composites examined, mechanical, creep and life-cycle impact properties of the composites must be examined. With these properties assessed, numerical models to predict behavior and material design tools will be developed, which can be used to engineer composites for desired properties.

Potential to Further Environmental/Human Health Protection

The closed-loop nature of the biobased composites researched will mark a paradigm shift in construction materials from materials that have one service life application to materials that have synonymous feedstock and degradation products. The characterization of material durability and life-cycle impact that will be conducted will substantiate the application of envisioned closed-loop composites for construction. Techniques also will be developed to apply laboratory-scale experiments to the understanding of material durability and life-cycle impact to aid in the design of lower environmental impact materials. The results of which will contribute to advancing sustainability by quantitatively assessing the influence of material durability on life-cycle impact.

Supplemental Keywords:

biobased composite, life-cycle analysis, creep behavior

Progress and Final Reports:

  • 2013
  • 2014
  • Final