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 ADIR Project: Lasers Recover Valuable Materials
21.07.2017 | Fraunhofer-Institut für Lasertechnik ILT

nachricht High-tech sensing illuminates concrete stress testing
20.07.2017 | University of Leeds

All articles from Materials Sciences >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

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

Im Focus: Manipulating Electron Spins Without Loss of Information

Physicists have developed a new technique that uses electrical voltages to control the electron spin on a chip. The newly-developed method provides protection from spin decay, meaning that the contained information can be maintained and transmitted over comparatively large distances, as has been demonstrated by a team from the University of Basel’s Department of Physics and the Swiss Nanoscience Institute. The results have been published in Physical Review X.

For several years, researchers have been trying to use the spin of an electron to store and transmit information. The spin of each electron is always coupled...

Im Focus: The proton precisely weighted

What is the mass of a proton? Scientists from Germany and Japan successfully did an important step towards the most exact knowledge of this fundamental constant. By means of precision measurements on a single proton, they could improve the precision by a factor of three and also correct the existing value.

To determine the mass of a single proton still more accurate – a group of physicists led by Klaus Blaum and Sven Sturm of the Max Planck Institute for Nuclear...

Im Focus: On the way to a biological alternative

A bacterial enzyme enables reactions that open up alternatives to key industrial chemical processes

The research team of Prof. Dr. Oliver Einsle at the University of Freiburg's Institute of Biochemistry has long been exploring the functioning of nitrogenase....

Im Focus: The 1 trillion tonne iceberg

Larsen C Ice Shelf rift finally breaks through

A one trillion tonne iceberg - one of the biggest ever recorded -- has calved away from the Larsen C Ice Shelf in Antarctica, after a rift in the ice,...

Im Focus: Laser-cooled ions contribute to better understanding of friction

Physics supports biology: Researchers from PTB have developed a model system to investigate friction phenomena with atomic precision

Friction: what you want from car brakes, otherwise rather a nuisance. In any case, it is useful to know as precisely as possible how friction phenomena arise –...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

Closing the Sustainability Circle: Protection of Food with Biobased Materials

21.07.2017 | Event News

»We are bringing Additive Manufacturing to SMEs«

19.07.2017 | Event News

The technology with a feel for feelings

12.07.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

NASA looks to solar eclipse to help understand Earth's energy system

21.07.2017 | Earth Sciences

Stanford researchers develop a new type of soft, growing robot

21.07.2017 | Power and Electrical Engineering

Vortex photons from electrons in circular motion

21.07.2017 | Physics and Astronomy

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>