Student News

2013 Project Presentation Day

Materials Engineering – April 18, 2013

Project Presentation Day Photo Gallery

Intelligent Preprocessing of Electronic Waste During Recycling; a Source for Critical Materials (First Place)

Student: Patrick Ford, Amy Loomis
Advisors: D. Apelian, J. Plummer (CE)
Sponsor: Center for Resource Recovery & Recycling, Umicore Corporation

A study of the end of life treatment of mobile phones identified a major challenge to the optimization of the preprocessing stage of recycling. The lack of supply chain transparency in the mobile phone life cycle limits recyclers’ knowledge of the chemical composition of incoming waste, reducing the effectiveness of this critical stage of resource recovery. X-Ray Fluorescence Spectroscopy (XRF) was employed to identify the chemical composition of shredded electronic waste, and the results support XRF implementation to enable intelligent sorting during preprocessing. By identifying profitable precious metals and hazardous materials in these waste streams with XRF, recyclers can make more informed decisions regarding electronic waste handling during preprocessing.

Evaluation of Fiber Reinforced Polymer Bench Scale Specimen Sizes and Prediction of Full Scale Flame Spread Testing for Building Applications (Third Place)

Students: Christian Acosta, Shawn Mahoney, Nicholas Nava, William Wright
Advisor: N. Dembsey (FPE)
Sponsor: Kreysler & Associates

Fiber Reinforced Polymers (FRPs) are quickly becoming an important building material due to their aesthetic and environmentally "green" characteristics. As with many building materials FRPs can potentially be a fire hazard in regards to flame spread. The International Building Code (IBC) limits flame spread for materials which are to be used as interior finish based on large scale ASTM E84 (Tunnel) testing. Unfortunately for FRP and other manufacturers, Tunnel testing is not a particularly cost effective way for developing new materials. To make development more affordable, use of the bench scale ASTM E1354 Cone Calorimeter (Cone) test is desirable. FRP Cone standard samples (100mm by 100mm) often exhibit non 1D behavior in terms of edge burning. Cone sample burning behavior was analyzed by comparing standard samples to enlarged samples (175mm by 175mm). Testing larger samples is thought to more clearly identify the onset of edge burning. Statistical methods helped analyze and compare the two sample sizes in terms of typical Cone data. Additional analysis involved the use of finite difference methods to compare sample temperature profiles.

A flame length model for material burning in the Tunnel test based on 1D Cone test results for material behavior was created to simulate the limited burning behavior of materials with a flame spread index 25 or less. This model can be used as a screening tool for material development. Additionally, the model can be used to establish compliance criteria for interior finish materials consistent with IBC requirements.

FRP Thermal Properties and Fire Performance for Building Exteriors

Students: Jacob Czarnowski, Kristen Nich, Kristina Zichelli
Advisor: N. Dembsey (FPE)
Sponsor: Kreysler & Associates

Fiber reinforced polymers (FRPs) are becoming more prevalent as a building material due to their versatility and ease of installation. For building exterior envelope applications, FRPs provide potential bene-fits relative to limited heat transmission but are also a potential hazard due to fire spread. In order to be used in exterior envelopes, sheathing materials are required by the International Building Code (IBC) to meet a range of criteria to ensure that fire cannot spread from floor to floor over the envelope. One criterion is based on the costly full-scale NFPA 285 test which measures flame height of the sheathing material when subjected to an open flame over time.

This project studied heat transfer and flame spread characteristics of five FRPs using Cone Calorimeter testing (ASTM E1354). Using data collected from the Cone and additional data gathered from thermo-couples placed throughout the specimens during testing, a procedure was developed to estimate thermal properties of the FRPs during the early stages of heating when the materials have nominal inert behavior. Using existing 2D spill plume and flame height theories, and data collected from an NFPA 285 test involving one of the five FRPs, a screening tool was created that will allow manufacturers to predict the outcome of a full-scale NFPA 285 test. The screening tool uses FRP Cone data to predict sheathing material flame height. Given the low cost of Cone testing the screening tool will allow FRP manufacturers to reduce the cost of material development.

Effects of Graphene Coating on Lithium-Ion Battery Cathodes

Students: Kevin Keane, Livia Motz, Hayley Sandgren, Peter Tuma
Advisors: J. Liang, D. DiBiasio (CM)

As electronics and portable technologies progress in a society of increasing environmental awareness, there is a growing need for batteries with improved capacity and larger energy density. Lithium-ion batteries offer a possible solution to this problem by offering the advantages of high voltage and energy density, low self-discharge rate, and extremely good cycling capability. Lithium silicates have been proposed as candidates for future batteries with a high theoretical capacity because they contain two lithium atoms in each molecule. Successful prototypes have incorporated active materials such as Li2MSiO4 (where M=Mn, Fe). It was found that Li2MSiO4 cathode materials with mixed M offer superior performance to the pure phases. Because lithium silicates are not very conductive, the cathode must be coated with a more conductive material, such as carbon. In this project, we studied the effect that carbon coating with graphene has on the performance of Li2Fe0.5Mn0.5SiO4 cathode materials. Graphene is a form of carbon with a layered anisotropic crystalline struc-ture, which allows the conductive coating to be distributed evenly among the cathode particles. This allows the batteries to achieve a high current efficiency without inhibiting the existing high capacity of the lithium silicates. We synthesized the Li2Fe0.5Mn0.5SiO4 cathode materials and tested their performance. The composites were then characterized through several tests, including XRD, SEM, and coin-cell battery testing. We found that the graphene greatly improved the discharge capacity of the batteries while maintaining exceptional current efficiency, making graphene coated Li2Fe0.5Mn0.5SiO4 cathode materials a significant advance in energy storage.

Environmental Effects on the Properties of Commercial Biopolymer Products

Students: Kelly Buffum, Hannah Pacheco
Advisor: S. Shivkumar

The current trend towards sustainability has created new interest in biodegradable plastics. While many investigations have examined the behavior of biodegradable plastics, the changes in properties that may occur during use have not been fully developed. The mechanical properties of seven types of biodegradable plastics were analyzed. In addition, the properties of polystyrene (PS) used in similar applications were examined. The effects of UV exposure, humidity, and accelerated aging on the mechanical properties were studied. In general, the strength of several biopolymers was less than that of PS. Polylactic acid and wheatstraw had a higher strength than PS. The properties of biodegradable plastics generally deteriorated significantly upon exposure to UV radiation and humidity, with polylactic acid, wheatstraw, potato starch, and the bamboo bulrush wheatstraw blend being affected the most. Accel-erated aging data indicate that after 6 months under ambient conditions, the potato starch, wheatstraw, and bamboo bulrush wheatstraw blend have a reduction in strength and modulus. Thermal analysis displayed a general weight loss curve for all samples tested, with the exception of potato starch. The major weight loss region occurred over a temperature range of 250-400 degrees Celsius with weight loss values of approximately 69-97%. Additional improvements may be necessary to resist environmental effects so that biopolymers can be effective replacements for traditional plastics.

Mechanical Characteristics of Elastomeric Hockey Pucks under Practice and Game Conditions

Students: Steven Deane-Shinbrot, Jonathan Rapp
Advisor: S. Shivkumar

Ice hockey is an ever growing sport throughout the world with the pucks used to play being produced by multiple manufacturers. Also, there are few standards in place for preparing for these pucks for game play. The goal of the project was to examine and test the mechanical and material properties of the puck in order to assist in finding meaningful data for optimizing puck use and consistency. The mechanical and material properties of pucks of the three different manufacturers were found through different tests. In order to determine the cause in performance variation, an analysis of surface temperature variations, surface roughness, the coefficient of restitution, impact toughness and pressure distributions were performed. The data demonstrated the quality of pucks to differ from each manufacturer. The effect of surface temperature on the pucks appeared to be the biggest single factor influencing game play. By standardizing puck storage prior to game play, factors such as bounce and surface roughness, may become more predictable, causing more consistent game play. Eventually as consistency improves, so too will the quality of game play.

Economic Feasibility of a Novel Alkaline Battery Recycling Process (Second Place)

Students: Ricardo Bonhomme, Paul Gasper, Joshua Hines, Jean Paul Miralda
Advisors: Y. Wang, D. Apelian, J. Schaufeld (BUS)

Spent primary alkaline batteries present an unused source of secondary metals in Europe and the US, with at least 300,000 metric tons of batteries being landfilled each year. While battery recycling programs exist, current hydrometallurgical and pyrometallurgical processes are not profitable when used for dedicated alkaline battery recycling, so industry growth is difficult. A novel mechanical separation process consisting of shredding, baking, magnetic separation, and specific gravity separation was developed to recycle alkaline batteries at a lower cost than current methods. Financial analysis was conducted using a Process Based Cost Model to specifically address the challenges of modeling a recycling process. The cost to recycling alkaline batteries via the developed process is $529 per metric ton, with revenue of $383 per metric ton. This cost is lower than that of other reported processes, but is still not economically feasible. The inherently low value of alkaline battery recovery material is identified as the most significant economic barrier for their recycling.

April 18, 2013

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