Ohio University

Engineered Plastic Composites

Coal chunk (Top), powdered coal with plastic pellets (middle right) and compounded CPC samples (bottom)
Coal chunk (Top), powdered coal with plastic pellets (middle right) and compounded CPC samples (bottom)

The Engineered Plastic Composites (EPC) market is significant, with a global value of $4.05 billion in 2015. The largest EPC market segments are building and construction (65%), automotive (18%), and electrical (8%), with the remainder being miscellaneous applications. Tremendous global EPC production growth is expected – marketing studies predict a 12.3% compound annual growth rate (CAGR), reaching $8.76 billion in 2023 (6 million tons/year of new EPC manufacturing demand).

Illustration of CPC compounding process and sample preparation for property analyses
Illustration of CPC compounding process and sample preparation for property analyses

Because EPC-based construction materials are typically made using wood as filler material, they present challenges of pressure-treated lumber, including water absorption, recyclability – and especially cost. ISEE is developing engineered composite materials utilizing natural carbon filler sources, such as coal, resulting in lower cost products with equal or superior performance properties. Performance data to date shows OHIO natural carbon plastic composites (CPCs) possess greater flexure strength and slower burn rates compared to commercial composite decking products, while recent cradle-to-gate life cycle analyses indicate CPCs – in comparison to commercial composites – emit 30% less GHG emissions and require 60% less energy to manufacture. ISEE is currently working with industry to scale these materials using commercial manufacturing equipment and assess additional applications.

Advantages

  • Lower cost owing to a combination of cheaper filler and reduced polymer consumption per composite unit
  • Increase in composite durability due to resistance to water absorption and biological attack.
  • Safer material due to improved fire rating for the composite
  • Better composite mechanical properties including flexural and tensile strength.

Literature

Technology Readiness Level

  • Coal Plastic Composites: TRL 4

Current Investigators

  • Jason Trembly, Principal Investigator
  • Damilola Daramola, Research Staff
  • Yahya Al Majali, Graduate Student
  • Clive Chirume, Graduate Student
  • Samuel Forshey, Undergraduate Student
  • Courtney Fularz, Undergraduate Student
  • Christian Braun, Undergraduate Student
  • Callum Parnell, Undergraduate Student
  • Hayden Medich, Undergraduate Student

Sponsor

  • Ohio Coal Development Office
  • US Department of Energy – National Energy Technology Laboratory