Plastics Research

Researchers led by Witold Brostow, director of UNT’s Laboratory for Advanced Polymers and Optimized Materials, have discovered a process to produce stronger plastics — the most popular manufacturing materials — at lower temperatures.

Improving the strength of plastics allows manufacturers to create products traditionally made of metals from lighter-weight polymeric materials. This leads to aircraft and automobiles with better gas mileage that also are easier to maintain. However, because plastics are weaker than metals, are deformed more easily and are more susceptible to wear, a reinforcement such as fibers or a ceramic filler often is used.

“Normally, when one puts in a ceramic filler reinforcement, the material becomes more sluggish in processing, so higher temperatures are required,” Brostow says. “The opposite results that we achieved — the lower processing temperatures — result in energy savings and improved production efficiency.”

The team’s research was published on the Society of Plastics Engineers website as useful information for some 33,000 SPE members. Research team members include Tea Datashvili, associate director of LAPOM; Haley Hagg Lobland (TAMS ’01, ’08 Ph.D.); and Piotr Blaszczak (TAMS ’06). Next, the researchers will explore other processes that produce similar results, with plans to patent the findings.

UNT’s LAPOM is one of the leading polymer science and engineering laboratories in the world. The faculty, staff and students in the lab represent several disciplines, including materials engineering, materials science, chemistry, chemical engineering, mechanical engineering and physics. 

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