Evaluation of diluent and reinforcing macro, micro and nano-fillers for bio-elastomers and plastics produced from agricultural and food processing wastes (Dr. Cornish)
Many elastomeric, plastic and thermoplastic products contain non-polymeric materials. Some of these are used as diluent fillers to reduce the cost of the products. Unfortunately, these can greatly reduce the performance of the product. Try a polyethylene glove, for example, which can be about 50% PE and 50% mineral filler. Other fillers, such as the petroleum-derived Carbon-Blacks, are reinforcing fillers and improve the properties of a polymer so that it can perform at a required level. We are developing new latex composite films and foams, and rubber composite formulations, using a range of unusual organic, cellulose and mineral fillers derived from wastes and, in one project, invasive weeds. We have found the different fillers respond differently in different lattices and rubber grades, and rubber bioplastic blends, but have been able to exceed the highest ASTM standards. The most promising materials will be scaled up using our commercial scale (60 ft x 3 ft) tape casting machine.