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Comment Processing & Handling

Recycled polymers improve the nylon product chain

By Mary Page Bailey |

Although recycled polymers can provide sustainable, low-cost feedstock, their use is challenging in applications that require high-performance characteristics. Vertellus LLC (Indianapolis, Ind.; www.vertellus.com) has developed additives to improve processors’ ability to incorporate recycled nylons and recycled polyesters into virgin nylon. One such additive, ZeMac, has been used in films and coatings as a coupling agent, but Vertellus has also validated its use as a plastic additive to improve the mechanical properties of recycled nylon streams. Typically, engineering thermoplastics and other injection-molding applications cannot incorporate recycled nylon due to the inconsistent properties of the stream, explains Vertellus’ marketing manager Prasad Taranekar. With ZeMac, processors can create a mixed stream of virgin and recycled nylon exhibiting uniform consistency and controlled viscosity, along with improvements in other critical properties.

ZeMac’s chemical structure (diagram) sets it apart from other additives used for nylon processing thanks to a specialized polymerization process that results in a very high concentration (78 wt.%) of maleic anhydride alternating with ethylene. Maleic anhydride enables faster reactions in compounding operations, as well as much lower additive dosing rates. According to Taranekar, most comparable additives have less than 5 wt.% maleic anhydride.

Vertellus is also developing another additive technology that targets incorporation of recycled polyester into virgin nylon streams, as well as upgrading recycled polyester itself. Nylon and polyester do not mix well, says Taranekar, so the additive must facilitate micro-level phase mixing, as well as imparting the appropriate mechanical properties. “Recycled polyesters’ viscosity is not suitable for injection molding, so what we want to do is boost the intrinsic viscosity while also enhancing the mechanical properties and hydrolytic stabilities,” he adds. Vertellus is currently testing the technology at customer sites and is seeking strategic partners for a commercial rollout. “As far as I know, there is no other product on the marketplace aimed at combining recycled polyester and virgin nylon,” he comments.

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