Seth Kane Mechanical Engineering PhD Comprehensive Exam presentation
- Friday, October 1, 2021 at 9:00am
- Roberts Hall, 321 and via WebEx (https://montana.webex.com/meet/w12x672) - view map
Biochar as a Renewable and Electrically Conductive Carbon Filler Material for Biodegradable Plastics
Plastics are one of our society's most used materials due to their unique combination of low weight, high strength, low cost, and ease of processing. However, the environmental impact of plastic waste is of growing concern, with many governmental and international organizations calling for policies and methods to reduce the environmental impact of plastic waste. Biodegradable plastics are one option to reduce the environmental impact of plastic waste, but high cost and a limited range of material properties limit their applications. Filler materials can be added to plastic to reduce the weight and cost and improve the material properties. Of particular interest are carbon-filled (e.g., carbon black) plastics, which are currently used in a broad range of applications, from car tires to high-end electronics. However, common carbon fillers are undesirable to add to biodegradable plastics as they do not biodegrade at the end of their useable life. In this work, we propose examining biochar as a renewable alternative to these petroleum-based carbon filler materials.
Biochar is a carbon material produced from the pyrolysis of biomass. Biochar has been established as a valuable amendment to agricultural soil and compost, demonstrating its end-of-life benefits during biodegradation. This work looks to optimize biochar production for maximum electrical conductivity, examine the localization and aggregation of biochar in biodegradable polymer composites and examine how biochar can reduce the environmental impact of plastic materials. Preliminary work has established high variation in biochar electrical conductivity and decreased polymer chain length, decreased thermal degradation temperature, and decreased crystallinity of common biodegradable plastics with the addition of biochar as critical issues to be addressed to improve the viability of biochar as a renewable filler material in biodegradable plastics.
- Department of Mechanical & Industrial Engineering