The broader impact/commercial potential of this Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) project is to allow for the recycling of valuable materials from complex wastes that today cannot be recovered. The commercial impact from this innovation is to allow for complex waste streams that contain multiple materials, such as textiles, to serve as the source of raw materials for the manufacture of new goods in a way that is cost advantaged. This gives those businesses that use such raw materials a sustainable alternative and importantly, a lower-cost, efficiently produced material. In this way, there will be significant incentive for the reuse of thousands of tons of material that today either goes to landfills, oceans, or is incinerated for energy, a very low value application. A funded, successful project will yield an entirely new framework for recycling of complex, multi-component materials.
This SBIR Phase II project proposes to develop novel technologies for fractionating complex wastes. Multi-component wastes such as textiles represent upwards of 4% of total landfill volume. Today, there does not exist technology for recovering the high-value materials that are in these wastes. The proposed project intends to develop a new approach using chemical techniques as opposed to simple melt recycling to enable the value-added recycling of high value polymers from such wastes. Chemical process development will take place in order to take the current status of the technology to implementation in a pilot plant. The main technical objective of the proposal is to develop the process so as to produce large amounts of consistent, high purity product. Materials such as polyester and nylon cannot be separated from natural or cellulosic fibers such as cotton or other textile materials. The goals of the research are to develop the proposers' current process for fractionating the synthetic resins with an emphasis on achieving high purity products at larger volumes. To this end, various chemistry and chemical engineering techniques will be investigated for exclusion of impurities from end product polymer at the kg scale.
This award reflects NSF's statutory mission and has been deemed worthy of support through evaluation using the Foundation's intellectual merit and broader impacts review criteria.