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Graduate Defense: Terra Miller-Cassman

May 14 @ 9:30 am - 11:30 am

Dissertation Defense

Dissertation Information

Title: Development of Recyclable Materials for Industry Using Non-Petroleum Feedstocks

Program: Doctor of Philosophy in Materials Science and Engineering

Advisor: Dr. Amy Moll, Materials Science and Engineering

Committee Members: Dr. Kathy Araújo, School of Public Service; Dr. Eric Jankowski, Materials Science and Engineering; and Dr. Aaron Smith, Mechanical and Biomedical Engineering


Plastics have been an essential material for over 80 years, yet we have been unable to manage the accumulation of plastic waste. The available solutions for recycling or replacing plastics are complex and costly, and thus have not kept pace with the increasing quantity of plastic waste. This dissertation describes the design and development of recyclable materials using commercial feedstocks to reduce barriers for industry adoption. In one approach, unsorted municipal solid waste is compressed at a low temperature and pressure to form rigid composite boards with properties similar to particleboard. In another approach, a copolymer with ethyl cyanoacrylate (i.e., Super Glue) is used as a sacrificial tie layer to facilitate the separation and recycling of poly(ethylene terephthalate) in commercial label release liners. Finally, composite materials, composed primarily of low molecular weight sugars, are prepared as a degradable and recyclable alternative to rigid, persistent plastics for short-term-use applications. Processing of the materials, in each of these systems, uses techniques that are compatible with existing infrastructure. Thus, the materials are designed to be scalable and low-cost.