Environmental Issues for Polymer Matrix Composites and Structural Adhesives

Report No. ARL-RP-27
Authors: Sands, James M., Fink, Bruce K., McKnight, Steven H., Newton, Crystal H., Gillespie, John W., Jr, Palmese, Giuseppe R.
Date/Pages: June 2001; 27 pages
Abstract: The U.S. Department of Defense (DoD) has been utilizing polymer matrix composite (PMC) and structural adhesive materials in military equipment for over 20 years. However, the volume of PMCs in fielded systems has remained relatively low. Currently, however, the DoD has established strategic goals that will necessitate the use of lightweight composites in order to meet performance requirements. Therefore, the volume of composites used in DoD systems is expected to see an unprecedented 100-fold increase over the next 30 years. As production volumes increase, the need to address environmental impact increases. The major contributions to environmental degradation from composites are generation of hazardous air pollutants (HAPs) and generation of hazardous (HW) and solid wastes. HAPs result primarily during the curing of the composite. HWs arise from expiration of stockpiled resin materials and from soiled support media used during manufacturing and clean up. Due to the wide range of applications and materials systems, as well as manufacturing and repair requirements, a family of environmentally benign solutions is needed to reduce and elirninate environmental impacts from PMC manufacturing. Solutions are proposed involving use of new technologies and materials to reduce pollutants from composite manufacturing. The technologies proposed include alternative curing of thermoset composites using electron beam (E-beam) irradiation and materials substitution employing thermoplastics processed using electromagnetic irradiation.
Distribution: Approved for public release
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Last Update / Reviewed: June 1, 2001