A two-year project called nanofol, in which researchers at the Institute for Plastics Processing (Aachen, Germany; German acronym IKV) focused on the compounding and distribution of nano-layered silicates based on a particular type of clay—montmorillonit—in thermoplastics that were then extruded to thin films, could well have produced some of the answers to problems that have kept this additive's use limited.
The documented benefits of this mineral are a vast improvement in water and gas barrier performance in products into which these minerals are incorporated, as well as improvements in mechanical properties such as impact resistance. These effects have been proven on laboratory equipment. Problematic, though, is ensuring that the minerals are homogenously distributed in a plastic compound so that these positive attributes also can be realized in thin films extruded on full-scale production lines.
Because his project was funded by five companies keenly interested in the mineral’s use for their own purposes, he cannot share concrete details, but Athanassios Elas, the lead engineer at the IKV on this project, did tell MPW that his team’s work on a pilot plant, sized between a lab line and a full-scale production line, helped to better identify some of the issues which hinder effective compounding of these materials, and also may have found some solutions to counter these issues. Although the two-year funded project has ended, work on the topic will continue.
Companies participating in the project were compound extruder manufacturer Coperion, polyolefins supplier LyondellBasell, medical device manufacturer Fresenius Medical Care, and film processors RKW and Südpack Verpackungen. —[email protected]