Researchers at Michigan State University in East Lansing are developing new styrene-free bio renewable resins with broad applicability in the construction of countertops, bathroom fixtures, windmill blades, and boats.
The team, led by John Dorgan, the Lamp-endowed chair professor of chemical engineering and materials science, took the research to Marblecraft in Fowlerville to cast a prototype of a drop-in-bowl sink. The prototype is more resource renewable than current products made of petroleum-based polyester dissolved in styrene.
“Presently, unsaturated polyester resins are used extensively in fiberglass composites for boat building, kitchen and bathroom countertops, and sinks from cultured stone,” says Harshal Bambhania, a third-year graduate student who is working on the research and took the project to Marblecraft. “However, there is a growing awareness that styrene has several shortcomings. It is not based on renewable resources, is a volatile organic compound, and indicated as a potential human carcinogen.”
Bambhania also says that preliminary calculations show a 40 percent reduction in greenhouse gas emissions in the new design compared to current technologies. The team developed a bio renewable resin system formulated using poly(lactide) and methyl methacrylate.
Over the course of the summer, mechanical tests including tensile properties and the Rockwell hardness test, along with environmental testing of scratches, stains, hot- and cold-water resistance, and more, will be conducted according to ASTM International standards.
Bambhania is doing the research at MSU’s St. Andrews, a STEAM lab in Midland. He met his wife while completing his master’s degree and she was completing her doctorate degree, both in chemical engineering at MSU. He has two daughters, ages 4 and 1.
Other researchers include post-doc Bin Tan and two former students at the Colorado School of Mines – Christopher Moran and Dylan Cousin.