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U.S. Department of Energy-Funded Collaborations

In October 2020, the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) awarded more than $4 million to spur innovations in plastic through projects with the BOTTLE consortium and its collaborators.

Circular Economy of Composites Enabled by TUFF Technology

Lead: University of Delaware

Partners: Arkema, Axiom, Colorado State University, Composites Automation, and National Renewable Energy Laboratory

This project intends to show both the environmental and economic value of recycling carbon fiber composites (CFCs), an industry still in its infancy in the United States. CFCs exhibit superior properties and can reduce the weight of systems conventionally designed with metal. The researchers are targeting two long-standing obstacles to an economic recycling process: recovering the fiber and polymer present in CFCs—carbon fiber and plastic—and engineering a solution that is significantly cheaper and more energy efficient than simply synthesizing CFCs from virgin carbon fiber feedstock. To do this, they are leveraging novel catalysts to break down commercial polymer resins to help reclaim carbon fibers; high-performance recyclable resins to aid the reclamation of both fiber and resin; ant the Tailored Universal Formable Feedstock process to create high-performance CFC composites from highly aligned chopped fibers.

The project supports the following BOTTLE tasks: deconstruction, redesign, characterization, and analysis.

Recyclable and Biodegradable Manufacturing and Processing of Plastics and Polymers Based on Renewable Branched Caprolactones

Lead: University of Minnesota, Twin Cities

Partners: BASF, MIT, and National Renewable Energy Laboratory

Aiming to understand how renewable polymers and plastics can be broken down into reusable chemicals or produce minimal waste, this project is developing a method for creating new, advanced plastics from alkyl-caprolactones. Due to their physical properties, alky-caprolactones have the unique ability to form high-performance plastics that are also recyclable and biodegradable. The project has the potential to not only divert waste from the landfill, but also open doors for manufacturing original products using a novel class of polyurethanes and thermoplastic elastomers.

The project supports the following BOTTLE tasks: deconstruction, redesign, analysis, and characterization.

Designing Recyclable Biomass-Based Polymers

Lead: University of Wisconsin-Madison

Partners: Amcor, Colorado State University, National Renewable Energy Laboratory, Pyran, Stora Enso, and University of Oklahoma

This project will design and test polymers made from agricultural waste that can be upgraded into reliable, recyclable, and biodegradable food packaging. Low-density polyethylene is commonly used in most food packaging today, but polyethlene (PE) films are neither easily recyclable nor biodegradable. The project will synthesize a variety of biomass-based polyesters that are designed for machine-learning tools. They will compare the properties of the biomass-based polyesters to conventional packaging films made with PE. Then, the project will demonstrate the properties of the materials by producing, and ultimately recycling, new food and liquid packaging plastics.

The project supports the following BOTTLE tasks: redesign and modeling and characterization.