The effect of microstructure, filler load and surface adhesion of marine bio-fillers, in the performance of Hybrid Wood-Polypropylene Particulate Bio-composite


In the past few decades, the world has experienced a rapid process of urbanization as a result of fast population growth, where the supply system has predominantly depended on energy-intensive industrialization. The process of rapid urbanization has increased pressure on existing natural resources and leading to a complex socio-environmental scenario with unprecedented attributes. These combined effects of speed rate, energy consumption, greenhouse emissions, and waste generation have led to long-term consequences causing great concern. These include fragmentation of the ecosystem, land degradation, desertification, and biodiversity loss.

In this context, the theory of industrial ecology has been developed to address these important social, environmental, economic, and technological challenges through an Integrated Waste Management Strategy, which encompasses transferring waste into resources or inputs to new processes. The fundamental relevance of this concept is centrally placed in the optimized use of raw materials and minimizing extractive pressure on virgin materials, by lengthening their service life via a longer value chain. This cascading use of capital enhances an efficient response to environmental challenges, while transitioning towards more resilient urban settlements.

Claudia Echeverria, Farshid Pahlevani, Vaibhav Gaikwad, and Veena Sahajwalla from the Centre for Sustainable Materials, Research and Technology at the University of New South Wales in Australia ([email protected]), proposed an Industrial technology integrated solution between the waste management sector and the wood-based panel manufacturing industry. Their aim was to advance Wood-Plastic Composite materials by transferring waste into useful resources, for the development of low-carbon and high-value environmentally sensitive end-product for applications in the building industry. Their research work is published in Journal of Cleaner Production.

The research team sourced four waste materials from the Sydney Metropolitan Area. They examined local marine litter such as Bivalve mollusc shells and Kelp Brown Algae as combined reinforcements in the function of secondary bio-fillers, approaching the optimization of the bio-composite performance with natural non-toxic materials. They prepared a series of 20 samples with the filler-matrix 60/40wt%. They also included secondary bio-fillers to the blend in the ratio 10-20wt%. The authors finally manufactured prototype panels through the traditional hot-compression method. The researchers investigated the fracture surface of the bio-composite panels and the filler-matrix interface. They also reported the mechanical behavior and moisture absorbency of the proposed bio-composite as a function of filler load, particles size, and the effect of coupling agent.

The authors observed from the experimental results that the particulate bio-composite panel achieved an overall performance consistent with the International Standard ISO 16893:2006. The marine bio-fillers were responsible for the improved mechanical characteristics of the prototype panels when they were included individually at 10wt%. The inclusion of the Maleic Anhydride Polypropylene coupling agent at 3% also enhanced the filler-matrix adhesion, which consequently improved the mechanical performance to 200%.

Identical values of Modulus of rupture for uncoupled and coupled samples were realized when the particle size was reduced from the 20 mesh to the 40 mesh. This last prototype could be improved by adding a Maleic Anhydride Polypropylene coupling agent to the blend in order to come up with high mechanical performance applications. For this reason, the recovery of Bivalve mollusc shells and macro-algae wastes as secondary bio-filler materials presented a low-cost low carbon environmentally sensitive alternative for the development of Wood-Plastic Particulate Bio-composites for applications in high-moisture environment.

The effect of microstructure, filler load and surface adhesion of marine bio-fillers, in the performance of Hybrid Wood-Polypropylene Particulate Bio-composite. Advances in Engineering

About the author

CLAUDIA A. ECHEVERRIA PhD(c) is an architect, GD in Landscape Architecture. She is a PhD candidate at SMaRT Centre UNSW since 2015. Her research project focuses in architectural biotechnology with waste fibres. The scope involves the recovery and cascading use of diverse fibrous waste materials for the advancement and development of novel low-carbon non-toxic bio-composite materials, as well as non-fibre high-end applications. She has specialized in sustainable built environments and integrated regenerative design, skills applied to SMaRT’s Green Micro-factory, transforming diverse end-of-life materials into alternative products for building applications; with enhanced mechanical, acoustic, moisture absorption, and fire retardant properties.

About the author

Dr Vaibhav Gaikwad has a Bachelor of Technology from the Institute of Chemical Technology, Mumbai, and holds a PhD in Chemical Engineering from the University of Newcastle. Vaibhav joined the SMaRT Centre in 2015 to work on the development of composite fabrication technology from recycled wood and plastic, e-waste recycling, waste characterisation and life-cycle assessment, while also teaching undergraduate students in Materials Science and Engineering. In 2014 Vaibhav received a Postgraduate Research prize and second place in the finals of the ‘3 Minute Thesis’ competition at the University of Newcastle.

About the author

Dr Farshid Pahlevani is an authority on high temperature metallurgical processes who has made a considerable contribution to the understanding of the behavior of metallic materials at high temperatures and their interactions with other elements (including heat treatment and metal casting procedure). Dr Farshid’s research focuses on liquid to solid phase transformations and he has established the comprehensive knowledge necessary to precisely control the kinetics and thermodynamics of high temperature reactions, metal-oxide interface reactions, and heat treatment and metal’s property correlation. His international research career, spanning high profile research institutes in Japan, Singapore and Australia, includes considerable experience working closely with industry to improve existing processes to achieve better environmental outcomes and greater cost efficiencies.

About the author

ARC Laureate Professor Veena Sahajwalla is revolutionizing recycling science to enable global industries to safely utilize toxic and complex wastes as low cost alternatives to virgin raw materials and fossil fuels. As Founding Director of UNSW’s Centre for Sustainable Materials Research and Technology, Veena and her team are working closely with industry partners to deliver the new science, processes and technologies that will drive the redirection of many of the world’s most challenging waste streams away from landfills and back into production; simultaneously reducing costs to alleviating pressures on  the environment.

She is reimagining the global supply chain by demonstrating the viability of ‘mining’ our overburdened landfills to harness the wealth of useful elements like carbon, hydrogen and materials like silica, titania and metals embedded in our waste. By using precisely controlled high temperature reactions – that selectively break and reform the bonds between different elements within complex waste mixes – Veena is producing previously unimaginable value-added new ‘green’ materials and products. In the process, she is building an unparalleled portfolio of new science and engineering that is overcoming many of the technical limitations and cost barriers of conventional recycling that currently leaves much of our waste behind.


Claudia Echeverria, Farshid Pahlevani, Vaibhav Gaikwad, Veena Sahajwalla. The effect of microstructure, filler load and surface adhesion of marine bio-fillers, in the performance of Hybrid Wood-Polypropylene Particulate Bio-composite. Journal of Cleaner Production, volume 154 (2017), pages 284-294.


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