A specialty company that focuses on online optical measurement for process analytical chemistry has received $250,000 to develop technologies to monitor the color of polymers online.
Polymer color is a key ingredient in plastics manufacturing.
The monitoring would occur during the high-heat, high-pressure extrusion
process when the temperature and pressure can damage monitoring devices. Online
monitoring would remove that risk. Currently, if polymers are the wrong color,
they often are recycled back through the extrusion process. Although this does
save the material, the redundancy of the process uses extra energy and
increases carbon emissions.
The grant from the U.S. Department of Energy’s Industrial
Technologies Program went to Guided Wave Inc., Rancho Cordova, Calif., as part
of the Industrial Energy Efficiency Grand Challenge. The award helps to
financially support the development of transformational industrial processes
and technologies that can significantly reduce the energy intensity and/or
greenhouse gas emissions of U.S. industry. The company has served the polymer,
chemistry, petroleum, pharmaceutical, sterilization and semiconductor
industries for more than 20 years.
The device under development is meant to withstand the high
heat and pressure inside an extruder. Being able to monitor color in this early
stage of production will ensure that the target color is reached without the
need for an energy intensive and wasteful repetition of the process.
Aside from the engineering challenges created by the high
temperatures, high pressure and low-light conditions of the polymer color
process, Guided Wave says that high development costs have kept the technology
from advancing. ITP’s grant made Guided Wave’s research and development project
possible, helping the company offer industry an energy saving advancement in a
cost-effective way, according to the company.
Guided Wave’s technology will enhance the production of an
array of products – from detergent containers to plastic bottles. If
developments are successful, the new technology could improve both productivity
and energy efficiency in plastics manufacturing.