This Small Business Technology Transfer (STTR) Phase II project is seeking to develop and commercialize a novel method for recycling immiscible polymer (IP) wastes into value-added products. In this new method, the IP waste is converted into highly-orientated filaments with a surface of a relatively lower melting point polymer and a core of a relatively higher melting point polymer. These high-strength bicomponent fibers are then processed into desired composite components by melting and fusing the surface polymer; because only the surface polymer is melted during processing, the end product is reinforced by its high-strength core fibril of the higher-melting-point polymer.
The broader/commercial impact of this project will be an enabling process to cost effectively produce self-reinforced composites from recycled, immiscible Polyprophelene(PP)/nylon. For the carpet recycling market alone, this approach will reduce more than 5 billion pounds per year of carpet waste. By converting the waste stream into value-added products with improved mechanical properties the carpet waste will never reach our landfills. This process eliminates complicated sorting and separation steps, uses less energy for production, and reduces crude oil consumption needed for virgin polymers. For transportation applications, the self-reinforced composites' excellent strength to weight ratio can help produce lighter component parts, enhancing fuel efficiency. The new reinforced materials can be further processed by molding/forming processes to create 3-D parts with enhanced mechanical properties. This technology shows that recycled polymer blends prepared in an appropriate way can deliver superior value-added performance over virgin polymers.
Over 6 billion pounds of carpet waste enters landfills in the U.S. each year. The costly steps of separating and sorting recycled carpet components drives used carpeting into the landfill instead of being recycled. Reducing the cost and environmental burden on our society to manage ever growing landfills is necessary. The Novana technology for carpet waste recycling makes recycling more attractive because it handles the waste stream without the need of separating and sorting. This new Novana technology demonstrates that recycled waste mixtures prepared in an appropriate way can deliver superior polymer performance over virgin counterparts. Also, when Novana converts carpet to recycled resins, we reduce our domestic reliance on imported oil, a raw material of resins. This technology creates new economics and performance standards for recycling. In essence, Novana has developed a new category of polymers and self-reinforced composites. Unlike existing plastic composites, Novanaâ€™s products are made of 100% recyclable plastics which are thermo-formable, lightweight, inert to moisture environment effects, and mechanically strong. This technology could revolutionize the publicâ€™s attitude toward recycling, particularly the disinclination of manufacturers to recycle post-industrial waste and the reluctance of consumers to purchase recycled products. This technology has been successfully demonstrated using post industry carpet wastes. The Novana innovation is developing two basic product forms: resin and a matrix. The extruded resin, named Novana SRTM Resin, can be sold as a fiber, as well as in rod (pellet) form. The fibers can be used in as continuous filaments or in chopped short-cut and staple fiber forms. The pellets and short-cut fibers are used in various molding operations such as compression and transfer molding to make parts and products to replace the resin of PP self-reinforced with micro nylon fiber. The Novana SRTM Matrix is a self-reinforced composite material. The matrix is a sheet of varying thicknesses with PP on the exterior and micro nylon fibers imbedded in the center, creating a self-reinforced structure ready for subsequent thermoforming processing into a desired shape of an end-product. The concept originated from an idea conceived at Novana Inc. to address the emerging environmental issues. This proprietary separation and extrusion process has been protected under a U.S. Patent filed in Nov., 2007, assigned to Novana, Inc. The technology has been further developed by closely working with the Georgia Institute of Technology, under support of the NSF STTR program. The research engages students to learn a novel route to tackle environmental issues using the "green" technology. This study also generates industrial partnerships to provide solutions for reducing mine tailing waste and to develop medical devices made of recycled materials.