Musa Kamal, who won the Society of Plastics Engineers' International Award, said that technologies like micromolding and nanocomposites have transformed polymer processing from simply “re-shaping” plastic resin into a finished product, to engineering the materials into complex items with very specific properties.
“Polymer restructuring. That's really what we're doing, rather than just polymer processing,” Kamal said in a presentation at an awards session during SPE's Antec conference in Boston. The International Award is SPE's highest honor.
On May 1 banquet, SPE gave awards to Kamal, a retired chemical engineering professor and professor emeritus for life at McGill University, and two other men — Walter Bradley, distinguished professor of mechanical engineering at Baylor University, and Rajendra Krishnaswamy, senior scientist at Metabolix Inc.
SPE also announced that Yetty Pauwels, a longtime SPE European staff person, won the President's Cup.
SPE said Kamal is an internationally recognized leader in polymer engineering and science. His research has centered on injection and blow molding, films, polymer composites and blends, composites, microstructures and computer simulation of injection molding.
Kamal, who holds a doctorate's degree in chemical engineering, began working as a research chemical engineer at American Cyanamid Co. in 1961, then became research group leader in plastics and resins.
He moved to McGill University in Montreal in 1967. He has published about 300 technical papers and supervised more than 130 graduate students. He holds six patents.
Kamal was inducted into the Polymer Processing Hall of Fame, and during his speech, focused on how the concept of processing has changed during his career.
Newtown, Conn.-based SPE named two other winners:
Bradley has taught polymers and polymeric composites for the past 33 years, at Texas A&M University from 1976-2000, and since then at Baylor University in Waco, Texas. He won the SPE Education Award.
He helped launch the Polymeric Composites Research Center at Texas A&M, which was funded by the Air Force Office of Scientific Research, and later created the Polymer Technology Center at the university.
Bradley headed a team of composites experts that explored the feasibility of using composite risers for deep-water drilling in the Gulf of Mexico. They studied the long-term degradation of polymeric composites from the absorption of seawater.
He also created an industrial consortium to study blown film, focusing on the then-new metallocene catalyst polyethylene. More recently, his work was the basis for an ASTM standard for testing plastic pipe used for hot, chlorinated water. He worked closely with industry in addressing pipe failure, including polybutylene water pipe, and the development of cross-linked PE, known as PEX.
Krishnaswamy, senior scientist at bioplastics maker Metabolix in Cambridge, Mass., won SPE's Research/Engineering Award. He developed the molecular-architecture company's corn-sugar-based resin — polyhydroxyalkanoate, or PHA — and formulation technology that enabled the production of blown film on a commercial scale.
PHA film's applications include agricultural film, where the mulch film can be rototilled into the soil for biodegradation.
He has made advancements to develop PHA melt strength and extrusion capabilities, including physical and chemical means to enhance thermal stability, according to SPE.
During his acceptance remarks, Krishnaswamy said was working at a good, secure job at Chevron Phillips Chemical Co. when Metabolix contacted him.
“Out of the blue, I got a call from somebody who said, ‘Would you like to work for Metabolix?' I said, ‘Who's Metabolix?' “ he recalled, chuckling.
Krishnaswamy's two young daughters, decked out in pink dresses, joined him on the stage. His mother came from India to attend the SPE event.
SPE's outgoing president, Ken Braney, presented Pauwels with the President's Cup. She joined SPE in 1981, and became the society's first European staff member. Pauwels was one of the founding members of SPE's global expansion, coordinating events in Europe for 30 years.
She is manager of SPE's European Thermofoming Division and the Additives & Color Division.