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Details of Grant 

EPSRC Reference: GR/R15078/01
Title: A New Continuous De-Vulcanisation Process For Re-Cycling of Rubber Products
Principal Investigator: Freakley, Dr P
Other Investigators:
Nassehi, Professor V Hourston, Professor DJ
Researcher Co-Investigators:
Project Partners:
Avon Rubber Plc Carter Bros Ltd Cooper-Avon Tyres Ltd
Graham Potter Associates
Department: Materials
Organisation: Loughborough University
Scheme: Standard Research (Pre-FEC)
Starts: 15 March 2001 Ends: 14 March 2004 Value (£): 262,270
EPSRC Research Topic Classifications:
Materials Processing
EPSRC Industrial Sector Classifications:
Related Grants:
Panel History:  
Summary on Grant Application Form
It is the thermoset nature of rubber compounds which has hampered direct recycling into new rubber products. In current methods, substantial property loss accompany the breakage of crosslinks essential for achieving a flowable, crosslinkable material. A pilot study of mechanical scission in an inert atmosphere suggests that, while both crosslinks and main chain bonds are broken, the absence of oxygen allows the latter to be healed by free radical chain extension. Other methods utilise chemical agents and ultrasonics to assist crosslink breakage. This project is concerned with finding the best treatment conditions for high quality re-cycled rubber in an efficient, continuous process. Most rubber products manufactured in the EU are for engineering applications and only if high property levels can be retained will recycled rubber achieve widespread reuse. It is proposed to adapt a novel, continuous rubber mixing process to the purpose of recycling, including anaerobic feed arrangements and a new rotor geometry for the highly elastic feedstock. Finite element analysis will be used to aid design optimisation. Tyre rubber will be investigated first and compounds based on nitrile and on ethylene-propylene rubbers will be introduced subsequently, to determine process generality. The aim is to determine the influence of treatment variables on the microstructure and properties of the recycled rubber in order to find best methodology. Thermal analysis, microscopy and solvent swelling will be used to assess the micro-structure and residual crosslink density of the recycled rubber. Extrusion rheometry and crosslinking measurements, followed by fracture tests and dynamic mechanical analysis on re-crosslinked materials will be used to compare the physical properties of the recycled rubber with equivalent new material, to determine the extent of property loss. Industrial collaborators will undertake product specific testing & evaluation.
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Organisation Website: http://www.lboro.ac.uk