Final Report: Building Materials from Scrap Tires and Waste Plastics

EPA Contract Number: EPD17011
Title: Building Materials from Scrap Tires and Waste Plastics
Investigators: Nowicki, Henry G.
Small Business: Professional Analytical and Consulting Services Inc. (PACS)
EPA Contact: Richards, April
Phase: I
Project Period: November 1, 2016 through April 30, 2017
Project Amount: $100,000
RFA: Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) - Phase I (2016) RFA Text |  Recipients Lists
Research Category: Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) , SBIR - Building Materials


PACS Inc. has specialized in activated carbons for over 30 years. PACS has developed new test instrumentations to better determine carbon physical adsorption performance: Gravimetric Adsorption Energy Distribution (GAED) and Heat of Immersion device which is now an ASTM standard carbon method for carbon life expectancy. These test methods help PACS to differentiate its services from competitors. PACS has provided laboratory testing and consulting services to seven firms who pyrolyze tires to obtain: oils, gases, metals and black char. The black char (surface area 30 m2/g accounts for 35% of the tire pyrolysis products). Tire pyrolyzers need profits from char to sustain business! This is critical to tire pyrolyzers. That is why they come to PACS, to provide commercial profitable uses of tire char.

PACS has provided proof-of-concept that these black tire chars can be activated to an activated carbon (surface area 600 m2g) that can capture vapor-phase mercury. An activation plant costs 25 million dollars. None of PACS tire char clients want to spend 25 million dollars to install activation kiln and associated facilities. So, PI contacted all U.S. activated carbon manufacturers seeking them to provide toll activation char to useful commercial activated carbon. All present activators had the same response: we will not use our activation kilns to activate tire char. But, we will buy finished activated carbon if you activate, same response from all present activators. So, there is an available market. The PI solved their problem.

So, the PI discovered some new usable physical properties of tire char that have wide commercial opportunities and avoid the need for kiln activation. Using tire char directly is a good option. This lead to combining tire char with thermoplastics (PE, PP, PC and Lignin from biorefiners) wastes to provide new composite building materials with many commercial opportunities.

Two major waste streams, thermoplastics and used automotive tires, need a technological and economic method to decrease their entry into our environment. Both have long life-cycles as waste, causing many deleterious environmental problems. The Phase I, II, and III goal is to divert plastic and tire waste and its pollution away from landfills and the environment dumping into transformational new technologies for new manufacturing materials. New commercial products are waste to wealth driven: control of electrostatic discharge flooring material (a 40 billion dollar problem), plastics with heatconducting capability, batteries, capacitors, automotive, aerospace, pharmaceuticals, new coatings to avoid radar detection, and 3-D manufacturing of light weight plastic parts and new carbon block filters. Additive manufacturing, or 3-D is the future of manufacturing.

Thermoplastics have several notable commercially valuable properties: light weight, strong, corrosion resistant, compatible with water and many other fluids and are readily available in virgin pellets and used commercial articles. Viable and working thermoplastic used items are routinely collected by waste management firms. According to a Columbia University blog post, approximately 33.6 million tons of plastic were discarded in 2012 in the United States. About 6.5 percent of that total is recycled, and another 7.7 percent is combusted in waste to energy facilities. Much of the discarded plastic ends up in landfills where it may take up to 1,000 years to decompose. Some of the discarded plastic makes its way to the oceans where there is estimated hundreds of millions tons of it threatening the health and safety of marine life.

The Rubber Manufacturing Association (RMA) has reported that for the year 2013, 3,824,300 tons of scrap tires were generated in the Unites States. The RMA makes the assumption that an average weight for all tires is 22.5 pounds. Using their figures, approximately 7.649 billion pounds of scrap tires or 340 million scrap tires were generated in 2013 in the United States alone. In other words, there is more than one scrap tire generated in the US each year for every man, woman and child living in this country.

This contractor, PACS, proposes to use these two above growing global waste streams to make useful, innovative building materials. Corporations need to look at their by-products as assets and turn them into needed commercial products. We look at waste as an opportunity. This is a patentable process and new material with many potential business opportunities. New material can be used in speciality chemicals, commodity chemicals, automotive, aerospace, highway building materials, drinking water filters, and Lego block toys and more. Tire char made from scrap tires should be classified as a new form of activated carbon based on its chemical Proximate and Ultimate elemental composition. Direct market uses for tire char with respectable economics will solve the tire char pyrolyzers' dilemma of not generating sufficient tire char revenue to conduct pyrolytic destruction of used tires. Combining tire char with thermoplastics provides composites with added economic value to plastics. Nothing like this exists today!

PACS Inc. ideas and proof-of-concept in Phase I are not limited to waste thermoplastics and tire char derived activated carbon. Obviously, unused and high quality plastics can be composited with fine particles of quality activated carbons. This needs developed to protect our intellectual property. In Phase II PACS will scale up from gram to kilogram - plastic + tire char composites and make a thread for 3-D manufacture of commercial objects. Our commodity material to a thread increases value of composites.

This PI has upcoming publications in Water Conditioning and Purification (WC&P) June 2017 titled “How POU Activated Carbon Filters Work” and International Filtration News titled “Pores Filled/Unfilled with Adsorbates and their Mass Spectral Identifications.” Presentation planned at 40th International Activated Carbon Conference September 14-15, 2017 “New Building Materials from Scrap Tires and Waste Plastics.”

Dr. Nowicki will provide his two-day popular activated carbon training course “Activated Carbon Adsorption: Principles, Practices and Opportunities.” in Atlanta, GA and Pittsburgh, PA in June 26-27, 2017. June course has Amway, Sweetwater Energy, and American Air Filter personnel. All are candidates for EPA Phase II match. PI has connected with 3 possible investors to facilitate EPA project in Phase II, towards commercialization.