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European Center for Elastomeric Powders – euCEP
Material recycling of »Technical Elastomer Products« is approaching a decisive turning point. In the past, elastomer powders and granulates, which are also called »rubber powders« or »rubber granulates«, were at best cost-effective base materials for secondary products, such as fall protection mats, sports surfaces etc. Currently, however, a clear trend towards higher value-creation is apparent. Elastomer powders and granulates are increasingly being acknowledged as high-quality raw materials; the finest elastomer powders are evolving into components of new base materials.
Elastomers in powder or granulate form have major potential applications. They are suitable as additives for elastic modification of various base materials, such as duromers, thermoplastics, lacquers, paints and powder coatings.
This topic area is being worked on systematically in the euCEP project. Elastomer powders and granulates are being produced from material residues left over in manufacturing of elastomer products, for example material residues produced when stamping flat elastomer parts from an elastomer sheet. To get a clear picture of what volumes and what forms of elastomer residues are being produced, the project is initially listing and cataloguing those residues. They are first being captured for the Netherlands and Germany. In parallel, logistics concepts are being developed that permit quality-assured collection of elastomer residues. As elastomers can consist of different base materials, great value is being attached in particular to segregated collection. Cryogenic and ambient comminution methods to manufacture elastomer powders and granulates are being investigated as part of the project. For instance, elastomer powders and granulates in the particle size range from approx. 50 micrometers up to several millimetres can be produced from the sometimes high volumes of elastomer residues. Physical and chemical characterization methods are included. The elastomer powders and granulates thus manufactured are then used as functional additives in development of new base materials or to modify existing base materials. Suitable equipment and systems to do this are being built and operated. The results of this work should, in particular, deliver new knowledge with regard to the technical attributes of elastomer powders and granulates in applications. With this in mind, research is being carried out into processes such as compounding, extrusion, die-casting and coating.
These developments will take place in close cooperation with the industry. To realise that, several workshops will be staged during the project and the companies in the industry are being actively asked to assist in the project. Two industry associations are supporting the project in an advisory role.
The European Center for Elastomeric Powders is being created in Willich in the field office of the Fraunhofer-Institut für Umwelt-, Sicherheits-und Energietechnik UMSICHT (headquartered in Oberhausen). The technical college, Fontys FHTBN (Venlo), and Fraunhofer UMSICHT (Willich) are cooperating as project partners, whereby Fontys is concentrating on the logistics issues and Fraunhofer UMSICHT on the technical aspects of elastomers.
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