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Recycled Scrap Tire Rubber Can Be Used to Create Novel Thermoplastic and Thermoset Compounds

Lehigh Technologies’ PolyDyne recycled tire rubber powder can be used to create novel thermoplastic and thermoset compounds that can be produced and manufactured in large volumes, according to new research by the company. The small rubber particles in the range of 105 through 44 microns offer a much higher surface area providing easier incorporation into polymer alloys, or rubber and plastics, via improved polymer-particle interaction.

Research on the process was performed by Carl McAfee of McAfee Consulting, LLC and Mike Grubb, Director of Plastics & Specialty Materials at Lehigh Technologies, Inc.

Efforts have been underway over the past 30 years in many areas to try to reuse scrap tires in polymer applications, including rubber-modified asphalt and tire-derived fuel. (Earlier post.) Although many of these projects have met with various degrees of success, they have all been limited by the ultimate particle size of the scrap tire rubber particle.

The new study shows that incorporating ultra-fine, rubber powder into the manufacture process can further enhance various compatibilization techniques, both reactive and non-reactive. The results of the research were presented at American Chemical Society’s Rubber Division’s 172nd Technical Meeting and Business Summit held 16-18 October.

This research shows how smaller particle size rubber particles have a very positive effect on physical properties. We have discovered improved physical properties and performance characteristics with the use of active and non-reactive compatibilizers. This is an exciting time for the plastics industry and for companies looking for new ways to find cost savings, without sacrificing performance all while maintaining a foundation for sustainability.

—Carl McAfee

Additionally, these very small rubber particles can be reintroduced back into thermoset rubber applications with little or no loss of performance properties.

A greenhouse gas inventory and lifecycle analysis of PolyDyne rubber powders by Malcolm Pirnie, Inc., a leading environmental engineering firm, released earlier this year found that on average, for every 10 pounds of recycled rubber powder used over synthetic polymers, companies who use Lehigh’s rubber powder will prevent 10 pounds of carbon dioxide from being released into the atmosphere. At the same time, on average they will reduce primary energy consumption by the amount corresponding to a gallon of crude oil. The actual amount of carbon and oil saved will depend on the specific synthetic being replaced.

These savings are achieved due to both a reduction in the amount of new synthetic materials that must be created and through Lehigh’s manufacturing process, which generates fewer greenhouse gas emissions and requires less electricity than comparable recycling or manufacturing technologies.

Shortly after the release of the study in July, Lehigh Technologies launched a certification campaign for manufacturers who replace petroleum-based chemicals with recycled rubber powder in their products.

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