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Researchers using recycled rubber to modify plastics

November 14, 2012

OBERHAUSEN GERMANY (Nov. 14, 11:20 a.m. ET) — Researchers at Fraunhofer Umsicht in Oberhausen have developed a process which uses recycled scrap rubber as a modifier for plastics, at ratios of 60-80 percent. Products such as lawn mower wheels and splashguards are being tested at potential customer facilities.

The research focuses on technical rubber products, such as profiles, sealing rings and rubber mats.

The objective of the research work was to systematically analyze elastomers in powder and granulate form to optimize the recycling of rubber residues, because the elastomers in powder and granulate form can be used as functional additives, i.e., they provide plastics compounds with the desired properties such as haptics, hardness or elasticity.

By adding elastomeric powder, Fraunhofer UMSICHT has now developed high quality plastics compounds, called elastomeric powder modified thermoplastics (EPMT). The materials are already undergoing application tests at industry customers.

The new plastics compounds are processed into granulates in the compounder system, together with thermoplastics and additives. These in return can be processed on thermoplastic processing equipment.

Fraunhofer said the recycling of elastomers increases the added value and opens up new market perspectives. Production waste, e.g. from rubber processors can be recycled. At present, 60-80 percent of elastomeric powder by mass can be worked into the thermoplastic matrixes. EPMT can be used cost-effectively, are easily processed in injection molding or extrusion machines, and are themselves also recyclable.