Ph.D. Proposal by Erin Sullivan

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MSE Ph.D. Proposal – Erin Sullivan

Date: Monday, September 29, 2014
Time: 9:00 – 11:00am
Location: Manufacturing Research Center (MaRC), room 201

Dr. Kyriaki Kalaitzidou, Advisor (MSE/ME)
Dr. Ben Wang, Co-advisor (ISyE/MSE)
Dr. Rosario Gerhardt (MSE)
Dr. Robert Moon (US Forest Service)
Dr. Meisha Shofner (MSE)

Title: Understanding the structure-process-property relationship in biodegradable polymer nanocomposite films


The potential for engineering/tailoring properties of polylactic acid (PLA) nanocomposite films is investigated by comprehensively studying structure-process-property relationships. According to a 2014 UN report, plastic waste causes ~$13 billion in damage to marine ecosystems annually due to littering and poor management and overflow of landfills. Due to the abundance of non-biodegradable petroleum based plastics in marine ecosystems, marine organisms are ingesting these plastic particles and potentially releasing toxins through the food chain. The goal of this work is to shift away from petroleum based plastics through a fundamental structure-process-property study of biodegradable polymer nanocomposite films. This work will focus on incorporating three nanofillers with varying geometries and chemistries to improve PLA film properties: 1) exfoliated graphite nanoplatelets (GNP), 2) carbon nanotubes (CNT), and 3) nanocellulose, specifically cellulose nanocrystals (CNC). The focus will be on obtaining a fundamental understanding of the effect of geometry of nanofillers with the same chemistry (GNP and CNT) or the effect of chemistry (CNT and CNC) on PLA nanocomposite film properties. Morphology and dispersion of the nanofiller, viscoelastic properties, crystallinity and crystal structure, tensile properties, and electrical conductivity will be investigated as a function of filler type, filler concentration, and manufacturing method / processing conditions used to produce the nanocomposite films. This work aims to create a roadmap for engineering specific properties in PLA composites, specifically in PLA nanocomposite films, by adjusting the manufacturing method and processing conditions as well as filler type and concentration.


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    Danielle Ramirez
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  • Modified By:
    Fletcher Moore
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