Valorape: Improving the Economics of Bio-Diesel Manufacture

Researcher: Thomas Elliot
Supervisor: Dr Jane Clarke
Sponsors: DTI, EPSRC and industry. Partners include Clwyd Compounders, Bangor University, Central Science Laboratory, Northeast Biofuels, Dow Halterman, Biofuels Corporation, Innospec

Aims and Objectives

This project aims to develop value-added chemicals and materials from co-products, to improve the economics of biodiesel manufacture and hence, increase marketability and uptake of this renewable fuel. Loughborough University’s part in the project was to investigate the use of rapemeal as a filler in rubber compounds. Experiments carried out have shown that blending of gelatinised protein with carboxylated nitrile (XNBR) rubber latex results in a material 10 times stiffer and 4 times stronger than the unreinforced rubber.

Research Carried Out

Experiments were carried out in which protein was mixed with water, heated and dissolved/gelatinised. The protein “solution” was then blended with XNBR latex, sheet cast and dried. The cast sheet was then moulded for 5 min. at 150°C. Tensile tests and SEM analysis was then carried out on the resulting material.

Research Findings

Results showed that the presence of the protein causes great increase in stiffness and strength of the rubber up to a concentration of about 50 parts per hundred rubber (phr) (Figure 1a). The strong reinforcement was attributed to 2 factors.

  • Firstly, latex blending was able to produce a much smaller particle sizes (Figure 1c) than conventional mixing (Figure 1b)
  • Secondly, ionomer type crosslink were developed between the carboxylate groups on the rubber and on the protein.

Figure: (a) Stress/strain curves for XNBR containing different amounts of protein, (b) SEM image of conventionally mixed compound, (c) SEM image of latex mixed compound

Research Significance

This research project contributes to the development of an emergent renewable fillers industry for rubber and other polymeric composite materials. A practical new method of dispersive mixing (gelatinisation) has been developed and may be suitable for mixing many biopolymers into rubber. Further development may facilitate the application of renewable bio-fillers in rubber products.

Loughborough University

The Department of Materials, formerly named the Institute of Polymer Technology and Materials Engineering has roots going back virtually 40 years and throughout this time we have been contributing to the advancement and application of knowledge in Materials Science and Engineering by means of teaching, scholarship and research. Our philosophy is based on the engineering application and use of materials which, when processed, are altered in structure and properties. This encompasses design considerations and business implications.

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