Multimodal Characterization of Degraded and Consumer Polyolefins Towards Quantitative Structure-Property Relationships in a Sustainable Plastics Economy

S. Orski
National Institute of Standards & Technology,
United States

Keywords: polyolefins, structure-property relationships, polymer degradation, metrology, correlated measurements, recycling, marine plastics


Accurate measurements and quantitative models of polymer structure-property relationships are critically needed to standardize evaluation of novel sustainable polymers and processing methodologies. In applications where plastics recovery is not practical, understanding environmental degradation kinetics on polymer topology and chemistry is crucial to optimize materials design at end-of-life. This presentation will highlight efforts in our laboratory to study environmental degradation of polyolefins with systematic study of chemical, molecular, and thermal properties with material depth to develop improved aging models as benchmarks for current marine debris. This research can be used to aid in sampling degraded plastic debris, to develop alternate identification methods, and with quantitative degradation measurements, (ultimately) help inform predictive models of polymer degradation pathways. Emerging efforts in correlating multiple measurement methods and using machine learning models to improve post-consumer resin (PCR) identifications will also be discussed. The integration of high-throughput characterization with robust polymer characterization methods on degraded and PCR plastics will aid improving quality and consistency of sustainable materials, particularly those with varying feedstock composition.