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Micronized rubber powder improves polymer loadings

By Scott Jenkins |

A new process for partially devulcanizing and functionalizing micronized rubber powders (MRP) may allow the use of higher levels of the material than originally allowed in vehicle tires and other applications. Currently, MRP from end-of-life rubber is being used in loadings of 3–5% in new passenger car tires. The process, recently developed by Lehigh Technologies (Tucker, Ga.; www.lehightechnologies.com), yields a functionalized MRP that could double the allowable loading in new tires up to 10%. Lehigh first developed MRP several years ago as a way to seize residual value from end-of-life tires. MRP is manufactured by cryogenically freezing recycled rubber material and processing it through a patented turbo mill to form rubber particles in the range of <50 to 400µm (Chem. Eng., October 2012, p. 11; www.chemengonline.com). In this form, MRP is used to displace virgin rubber feedstock in tires, oil-based raw materials in polyurethane and other materials, and thereby lower costs while maintaining the required performance properties. The new process involves a patented, chemically assisted milling process that partially “unzips” the polymer structure of the rubber and adds chemical functionality, so that it can reform sulfur…
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