All ETDs from UAB

Advisory Committee Chair

Derrick Dean

Advisory Committee Members

Uday Vaidya

Robbin Foley

Document Type

Thesis

Date of Award

2011

Degree Name by School

Master of Science in Materials Engineering (MSMtE) School of Engineering

Abstract

Products developed from polymeric materials have found a myriad of applications that make life better and more convenient. In many cases, however, plastics end up in landfills after their useful lifetime. The inability of most synthetic plastics to degrade in the landfill presents a challenge to continue to expand their applications in order to minimize their environmental impact. Incorporating natural fibers into synthetic polymers has been investigated recently; however, most of the natural fibers do not have the mechanical properties of their inorganic counterparts. Thus, there is a need for high strength fibers that are degradable. The goal of this research was to develop high strength, `green' fibers based on starch and high density polyethylene (HDPE) using a relatively inexpensive melt spinning process Mechanical properties of the blended fibers were examined. It was found that with appropriate processing techniques (i.e. cold drawing) up to 5 wt% TPS could be used as filler without significantly sacrificing the mechanical properties of the blended fibers when compared to their neat counterparts. In some cases, the blended drawn fibers exhibited a 35 fold increase in the mechanical properties when compared to their as-spun counterparts. This result is especially significant when one considers that current HDPE demand exceeds 30 million metric tons. Wide angle x-ray scattering (WAXS) was used to examine the morphological characteristics of the blended fibers. The WAXS data showed that a very high degree of molecular orientation was achieved in fibers with TPS loadings of up to 5 wt%. The degree of orientation as well as the degrees of crystallinity of the fibers was correlated with the mechanical properties.

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