Canola-based Epoxy Resins for Bio-based Plastic Composites
The development of canola oil-based resins for commercial application to composite materials is the long-term objective of this project. Epoxies are already a well-established type of resin used in composites, and thus the current focus is on blends of canola oil-based epoxy and synthetic epoxy resins. The supporting objectives are stated below. By achieving these objectives, we are demonstrating that canola oil-based resins are suitable for high-value applications, thereby helping to create a new, high-value market for canola, fostering new business opportunities in the North Central U.S., and lessening our nation’s dependence on imported petroleum.
Process conditions were identified in our lab that achieve >98% conversion with 90% yield epoxidized canola oil (ECO), by adapting processes reported for other epoxy resins to ECO. Our process uses a heterogeneous catalyst that is readily recovered and reused, unlike the liquid acid catalysts traditionally used. The resulting ECO was blended with a synthetic epoxy system at 30, 35 and 40% of the total resin weight, combined with E-glass, cured, and then tested for mechanical properties alongside all-synthetic control.
Major Results and Conclusions
Composite specimens containing 30 to 40% ECO had lower flexure strength and glass transition temperature than the all-synthetic control; however, the flexure modulus and toughness were similar to the control. Thus, composites prepared using ECO-blends should perform well in applications requiring flexibility and toughness. Alternative curing agents will be explored to enhance flexure strength and glass transition temperature. ECO was successfully used at the 10% level in some of the shields used in the Bison Pullers 2009 quarter-scale tractor. Our process must now be scaled to produce larger quantities for more extensive tests and demonstrations.