Testing a new method for better thermosetting resin

The project leader is Sunil Kumar Ramamoorthy, Senior Lecturer in Resource Recovery. He explains why the work in the project is important:

- Thermosetting resin is a plastic formed by a special chemical process known as curing.
- The other major plastic group is called thermoplastics. The difference between thermoplastics and thermosetting resins is that the molecules of thermoplastics are long chains, while the molecules of the thermosetting resins have network structures or are even more complicated. Most thermoplastics can be heated to make them soft and formable. They can also be recycled.
- This is impossible with a thermosetting resin. Thermosetting resins have properties that cannot be found in any other materials. They become strong, can cure quickly or slowly, provide nice surfaces, resist chemical impact, and so on.
- Examples of thermosetting resins are acrylate polymer, amino plastic, epoxy plastic, phenoplastic, polyester and polyurethane plastics.
- Thermosetting resins are hard to recycle.

"Commercial thermosetting resins are manufactured from non-renewable resources. By starting with different renewable materials, plastics that are renewable can be manufactured. However, bio-based thermosetting resins can have some disadvantages such as poorer thermal stability."

In a previous project, the recovery of polyethylene reinforced with so-called carbon nanotubes was studied. These are small tubes in nano size with extremely good mechanical properties.

"In that project, we saw that the plastic had an outstanding thermal stability. As part of our work on developing bio-based thermosetting resins, we now also want to reinforce them with carbon nanotubes. We hope to improve the properties of these thermosetting resins with the help of the carbon nanotubes."

Why is that important?

"Generally speaking, developing materials from renewable resources is important. Our project is part of this work. The project fits well into the research conducted at the university in the Resource Recovery field.

What will you do?

"We will manufacture plastic from lactic acid made from corn. Then, carbon nanotubes are added to the plastic. When cured, a rigid material is formed where the carbon nanotubes are embedded in the plastic. We will then form the plastic in different ways, with and without the carbon nanotubes. Among other things, aging tests will be done in which the plastic is heated for a long time to study the thermal properties of the plastic."

The project is funded by Sparbankstiftelsen Sjuhärad.

Sparbankstiftelsen Sjuhärad annually donates grants for research and education, business, culture, and sports in the municipalities of Bollebygd, Mark, Svenljunga and Borås. Sparbanksstiftelsen Sjuhärad's website.

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Research group Polymer Technology

Sunil Kumar Lindström Ramamoorthys research profile

Text: Anna Kjellsson
Photo: Lena M Fredriksson
Translation: Eva Medin