Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Quality products from rubber residues

06.11.2012
Rubber residues can be downcycled to floor coverings and safety crashpads, and for the first time, also processed into high-quality plastics. A new kind of material makes it possible: the environmentally-friendly material mix is called EPMT.

Each year throughout the world, up to 22 million tons of rubber are processed and a large portion of it goes into the production of vehicle tires. Once the products reach the end of their useful life, they typically land in the incinerator. In the best case, the waste rubber is recycled into secondary products.


Elastomeric powders can be used in a variety of ways in high-quality materials.
© Fraunhofer UMSICHT

Ground to powder, the rubber residues can be found, for example, in the floor coverings used at sports arenas and playgrounds, and in doormats. But until now, the appropriate techniques for producing high-quality materials from these recyclables did not exist. Researchers at the Fraunhofer Institute for Environmental, Safety and Energy Technology UMSICHT in Oberhausen recently succeeded in optimizing the recycling of rubber waste materials. They have developed a material that can be processed into high-quality products, like wheel and splashguard covers, handles, knobs and steerable castors.

The new plastic compounds are called elastomer powder modified thermoplastics or EPMT for short. They are comprised of rubber residues crushed into elastomer powder that are blended with thermoplastics. “In the first step, the rubber residues – that can be meter-long rubber pieces are granulated to three-millimeter large particles. The particles are cooled with liquid nitrogen and then ground into elastomeric powders. This is then conducted to the melt-mix process with thermoplastics and additives. Here we use, for example, polypropylene as a thermoplastic material,” as Dr. Holger Wack, scientist at UMSICHT, explains the production process. Working jointly with his colleagues Damian Hintemann and Nina Kloster, the trio collaborates on the “EXIST Research Transfer” project sponsored by the Federal Ministry for Economics and Technology BMWi, where they work meticulously on various recipes for new blends of materials that are already protected by patent and trademark rights.

Variable material properties

The compound stands out from a number of different perspectives: The crushing of rubber waste is more environmentally-friendly and resource-efficient than producing new rubber products – an important aspect in view of the rising costs of energy and raw materials. “EPMT may contain up to 80 percent residual rubber; only 20 percent is made up by the thermoplastics,” says Wack. EPMT can be easily processed in injection molding and extrusion machines, and in turn, these products are themselves recyclable. The clou: The physical and mechanical material properties of the substance – like elasticity, breaking strain and hardness – can be individually modified, according to the customer’s wishes.

Altogether, three basic recipes have been developed that collectively can be processed on the large technical production machines. The researchers are capable of producing 100 to 350 kilograms of EPMT per hour. Spurred on by this success, Wack and both of his colleagues founded Ruhr Compounds GmbH. In addition to the production and the sale of EPMT materials, this Fraunhofer spin-off offers custom-made service packages: “We determine which of the customer’s materials can be replaced by EPMT, develop customized recipes and also take into account the settings required at our customers‘ industrial facilities,” says the scientist.

The widest array of industries will benefit from the expertise of these professionals: processors of thermoplastic elastomers can obtain EPMT and further process it into products. Industrial companies whose work involves elastomers – such as the industrial and construction sectors, or car-makers and athletics – could recycle these products, make EPMT from them, incorporate them into their existing products and thereby close the materials cycle.

Nike tests EPMT

In the “Re-use a Shoe” project, sports gear maker Nike has been collecting used sneakers for a while now, recycled their soles and under the label “Nike Grind”, reprocessed them as filler material for sports arenas and running track surfaces. The EPMT compound of the Fraunhofer researchers enables Nike to place new products on the market. As one of its official promotional partners, “Tim Green Gifts” created the first EPMT-based promotional articles under the “Nike Grind” brand, like frisbees, shoehorns and boomerangs. Discussions about using new EPMT compounds in the original portfolio, such as zippers, bag bases and sports equipment, have also been initiated. “We are extremely excited about this collaboration,” says Wack.

Dr. rer. nat. Holger Wack | EurekAlert!
Further information:
http://www.fraunhofer.de/en/press/research-news/2012/november/quality-products-from-rubber-residues.html

More articles from Materials Sciences:

nachricht Robust and functional – surface finishing by suspension spraying
19.09.2017 | Fraunhofer-Institut für Keramische Technologien und Systeme IKTS

nachricht Graphene and other carbon nanomaterials can replace scarce metals
19.09.2017 | Chalmers University of Technology

All articles from Materials Sciences >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Tiny lasers from a gallery of whispers

New technique promises tunable laser devices

Whispering gallery mode (WGM) resonators are used to make tiny micro-lasers, sensors, switches, routers and other devices. These tiny structures rely on a...

Im Focus: Ultrafast snapshots of relaxing electrons in solids

Using ultrafast flashes of laser and x-ray radiation, scientists at the Max Planck Institute of Quantum Optics (Garching, Germany) took snapshots of the briefest electron motion inside a solid material to date. The electron motion lasted only 750 billionths of the billionth of a second before it fainted, setting a new record of human capability to capture ultrafast processes inside solids!

When x-rays shine onto solid materials or large molecules, an electron is pushed away from its original place near the nucleus of the atom, leaving a hole...

Im Focus: Quantum Sensors Decipher Magnetic Ordering in a New Semiconducting Material

For the first time, physicists have successfully imaged spiral magnetic ordering in a multiferroic material. These materials are considered highly promising candidates for future data storage media. The researchers were able to prove their findings using unique quantum sensors that were developed at Basel University and that can analyze electromagnetic fields on the nanometer scale. The results – obtained by scientists from the University of Basel’s Department of Physics, the Swiss Nanoscience Institute, the University of Montpellier and several laboratories from University Paris-Saclay – were recently published in the journal Nature.

Multiferroics are materials that simultaneously react to electric and magnetic fields. These two properties are rarely found together, and their combined...

Im Focus: Fast, convenient & standardized: New lab innovation for automated tissue engineering & drug

MBM ScienceBridge GmbH successfully negotiated a license agreement between University Medical Center Göttingen (UMG) and the biotech company Tissue Systems Holding GmbH about commercial use of a multi-well tissue plate for automated and reliable tissue engineering & drug testing.

MBM ScienceBridge GmbH successfully negotiated a license agreement between University Medical Center Göttingen (UMG) and the biotech company Tissue Systems...

Im Focus: Silencing bacteria

HZI researchers pave the way for new agents that render hospital pathogens mute

Pathogenic bacteria are becoming resistant to common antibiotics to an ever increasing degree. One of the most difficult germs is Pseudomonas aeruginosa, a...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

“Lasers in Composites Symposium” in Aachen – from Science to Application

19.09.2017 | Event News

I-ESA 2018 – Call for Papers

12.09.2017 | Event News

EMBO at Basel Life, a new conference on current and emerging life science research

06.09.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

Molecular Force Sensors

20.09.2017 | Life Sciences

Producing electricity during flight

20.09.2017 | Power and Electrical Engineering

Tiny lasers from a gallery of whispers

20.09.2017 | Physics and Astronomy

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>