Enhancing Environmental Sustainability
By definition, an ecosystem, a lifestyle, or a community is sustainable if it can support itself and its surroundings. Protecting the environment is the foundation of sustainability.
The world’s population continues to increase. The standard of living of this increasing population continues to rise thanks to major technological advances, social development, and economic development. These trends have increased the risks for the environment.
We help clients enhance the environmental sustainability of their technologies by addressing the types of challenges summarized in the remainder of this page.
Polymers and composites are ubiquitous as materials of construction of products used in a vast range of applications. There are three main areas of focus for enhancing environmental sustainability through polymer and composite materials science. These areas are all major frontiers of research and development worldwide.
- Increasing the percentage of ingredients obtained or derived from environmentally friendly feedstocks used in manufacturing such products.
- Reducing the environmental impact of manufacturing processes.
- Improving the methods utilized for the disposal of used products and of scraps from product manufacturing processes.
A project targeting enhanced environmental sustainability through materials science may require focus on just one of these three areas, or may need to address any two areas, or may even require work in all three areas. We can help clients surmount all such challenges.
The percentage of ingredients obtained or derived from environmentally friendly feedstocks can be increased by the substitution of (a) biobased feedstocks for petrochemical feedstocks and/or (b) recycled feedstocks for virgin feedstocks. It is, however, often difficult to maintain acceptable performance or an acceptable balance of performance versus price in making such a substitution, limiting the maximum possible percentage of substitution. Please click on the button to the right of or below this sentence for a copy of a presentation by Dr. Bicerano covering some of these topics.
Manufacturing processes use energy, often utilize various chemicals as processing aids, and may create byproducts that cause pollution. Reducing environmental impact often requires, therefore, (a) the improvement of manufacturing processes to use less energy, (b) the utilization of fewer and preferably no environmentally damaging processing aids, and/or (c) the reduction and preferably elimination of the creation of byproducts that cause pollution.
One approach for reducing the environmental impact of the disposal of used products and of scraps from product manufacturing processes is to convert them via mechanical and/or chemical recycling processes into recycled feedstocks suitable for use as replacement for virgin feedstocks. In some instances where such a conversion cannot be accomplished cost-effectively, conversion into fuels (oils and gases) may provide an environmentally friendlier alternative to placement in a landfill for the disposal of plastic and rubber wastes. The other approach is to manufacture products with biodegradable polymers so that used products as well as scraps from manufacturing processes can be disposed of by composting.
Please contact us for your environmental sustainability enhancement needs that require expertise in polymer and composite materials science.