Is fiberglass biodegradable? (3 types of fiberglass resins)

This blog article shall look into the biodegradability of fiberglass.

It shall also cover some other areas like:

  • Types of fiberglass.
  • Materials used in fiberglass.
  • Applications of fiberglass.
  • Advantages and disadvantages of fiberglass.
  • Eco-friendliness of fiberglass.

Is fiberglass biodegradable?

No, fiberglass is not biodegradable. It is made up of glass fibers and plastics. These synthetic materials are not susceptible to microbial degradation.

Biodegradation is the breakdown of organic matter into small particles that are not harmful to the environment. 

Biodegradation occurs through agents like bacteria and fungi which break down organic materials to get simpler molecules like carbon dioxide and water, and also small biomass which the microorganisms use for their metabolism.

What is fiberglass?

This is a type of plastic material that has been reinforced or strengthened using glass fiber.

The most commonly used plastics are thermoplastic polymers such as polypropene, polybutylene, polyethylene, polypropylene, or thermosetting plastics such as epoxy, polyester resin, or vinyl ester resin.

Fiberglass is also called glass-reinforced plastic (GRP) or glass-fiber reinforced plastic (GFRP).

Properties of fiberglass.

The following are the properties of fiberglass.

  • It has high tensile strength.
  • It is lightweight.
  • It is resistant to extreme weather conditions.
  • It is resistant to different surface textures.
  • It has high radio frequency permeability.
  • It has low signal attenuation abilities.
  • It is highly durable.

Types of glass fiber are used to make fiberglass.

Fiberglass is made using the following glass fibers.

  • E-glass fiber- this glass fiber is made up of alumino-borosilicate glass with less than 1% alkali oxides. It is mainly used for glass-reinforced plastics.
  • A-glass fiber- this is an alkali-lime glass with very little boron oxide.
  • E-CR-glass fiber- The electrical/Chemical resistance glass fiber. It is an alumino-lime silicate with less than 1% alkali oxides. It has high acid resistance.
  • C-glass fiber- this is an alkali-lime glass with high boron oxide content. It is used for glass staple fibers, and also for insulation.
  • D-glass fiber- is made up of borosilicate glass. It has a low dielectric constant.
  • R-glass fiber- this is made of aluminosilicate glass without magnesium oxide and calcium oxide.
  • S – glass fiber- this is made of alumino-silicate without calcium oxide but with high magnesium oxide content. It has a high tensile strength

Types of fiberglass.

There are different types of fiberglass depending on the plastic used or the type of glass fiber used to make it.

The different types of fiberglass include the following:

  • Polyester and chopped strand mat laminate with 30% E-glass fiber.
  • Polyester and woven rovings laminate with 45% E-glass fiber.
  • Polyester and satin weave cloth laminate with 55% E-glass fiber.
  • Polyester and continuous rovings laminate with 70% E-glass fiber.
  • E-glass epoxy composite.
  • S-glass epoxy composite.

Applications of fiberglass.

The following are the uses of fiberglass.

  • In making aircraft radomes.
  • In the building of bodies of boats and sports cars.
  • It is used in making fiber rovings and pre-pegs.
  • It is used to make shrouding antennae in the telecommunication industry.
  • It is used to make sheet-form electrical insulators.
  • It is used to make protective gadgets such as helmets.
  • It is used to make sports gear such as goaltenders and catcher’s masks.
  • It is used to make storage and septic tanks.
  • It is also used as a house building material to make door surrounds, over-door canopies, dormers, window canopies, chimneys, and roofing laminate.
  • It is used to make rods for rod-pumping.
  • Fiberglass is used to make pipes and tubes for desalination, water treatment, water distribution network, chemical processing plants, drinking water, wastewater and sewage, liquefied petroleum gas, and firefighting water.

Types of plastic resins used in fiberglass.

The three main fibers used in making fiberglass are polyester resin, vinyl ester resin, and epoxy resin.

Polyester resin.

This is a polymer that contains a repeat of ester groups.

It is also called polyethylene terephthalate.

Properties of polyester resin.

The following are the properties of polyester.

  • It is inert.
  • It is a strong and hard material.
  • It is durable.
  • It is resistant to microbial attack.
  • It is lightweight, and hence easy to carry.
  • It is fully recyclable.

Uses of polyester resin.

The following are the properties of polyester plastic.

  • It is used in making fabrics for knitting shirts, pants, jackets, bed sheets, blankets, upholstery, and hats.
  • It is used in the reinforcement of car tires.
  • Making conveyor belts.
  • Making safety belts.
  • Used as cushioning material in pillows.
  • Used in making liquid crystal displays.
  • It is used together with glass fibers to make fiberglass.

Advantages of polyester resin.

  • It can withstand high temperatures.
  • It is resistant to weathering and aging.
  • It is resistant to water and some other chemicals.
  • It is cheap to purchase m
  • It has good wetting to glass fibers.
  • It has a low shrinkage during curing.

Disadvantages of polyester resin.

  • Cured polyester is weaker than epoxy resin.
  • It is not appropriate for bonding many substances.
  • It emits a strong styrene odor.
  • It is more difficult to mix than other resins such as epoxy.
  • It produces toxic fumes, and also its catalyst, MEKP, is poisonous.

Vinyl ester resin.

Vinyl ester is produced through the esterification of epoxy resin with acrylic or methacrylic acids.

Vinyl ester can be used as an alternative to polyester and epoxy resins.

Properties of vinyl ester resin.

Vinyl ester contains the following properties.

  • It has high tensile strength.
  • Have lower viscosity.
  • It is resistant to corrosion.
  • It is resistant to water.

Uses of vinyl ester resin.

The following are the uses of vinyl ester.

  • It is used in making glasair and glastar plane kits.
  • It is used in making marine components.
  • It is used to make FRP tanks and vessels.
  • It is used for laminating purposes.

Epoxy resin.

This is a polymer made up of epoxide monomers.

It is also called polyepoxides 

Epoxy resins can be cross-linked with themselves through the process of homopolymerization or with other groups such as ones, phenols, alcohols, and acids 

The cross-linking is done mainly to harden the epoxy resin, in a process called curing.

Properties of epoxy resin.

Epoxy resin has the following properties.

  • It has high chemical resistance.
  • It has a high thermal resistance.
  • It is durable.
  • It is biodegradable.
  • Good electrical insulator.
  • It is heat resistant.

Uses of epoxy resin.

It is used in the following ways.

  • In making adhesives.
  • As a composite material in other substances.
  • As powder coatings for washers and dryers.
  • Used in coating steel to prevent corrosion.
  • As structural glue.
  • As a painting medium.
  • It is used in electronic industries to make integrated circuits, transistors, hybrid circuits, and printed circuit boards.
  • It is used to pot transformers and inductors.
  • It is used to make layers in a reservoir producing excessive brine.
  • Used in making marine components.

Liquid epoxy resin irritates the eyes and eyes. It is also toxic to aquatic organisms.

It causes dermatitis in areas exposed to it.

It can cause asthma in the user.

Eco-friendliness and toxicity of fiberglass.

According to a study on fiberglass and the environment, fiberglass is a non-biodegradable substance.

Fiberglass is made from synthetic polymers such as epoxy, polyester, and vinyl ester together with glass fibers. 

These are materials that can not be degraded by microorganisms and therefore improper disposal would lead to environmental pollution.

Vinyl ester contains a toxic catalyst; methyl-ethyl-ketone- peroxide ( MEKP). The catalyst may cause harmful effects on plants and animals.

The plastic polymers when disposed of to the environment may produce chemicals that leach into the soil and pollute water systems.

Conclusion.

This article has covered areas such as;

  • Biodegradability of fiberglass.
  • Properties and applications of fiberglass.
  • Types of fiberglass resins.
  • Types of glass fibers used in fiberglass.
  • Types of resins used to make fiberglass, their properties, and uses.

For any questions or comments please use the comment section below.

Frequently Asked Questions FAQs): is fiberglass biodegradable?

Why is fiberglass bad for the environment?

Fiberglass is made up of plastics that do not break down in the environment and therefore lead to environmental pollution by accumulating in landfills and water bodies.

Fiberglass produced styrene from plastics which pollutes the air and also causes skin, eyes, and nasal irritation.

Is fiberglass waterproof?

Yes, fiberglass is waterproof because it is resistant to water. Its water resistance ability makes it a favorite material for making boats and ship parts.

Does fiberglass degrade in soil?

No, fiberglass is made up of glass, and plastic resins such as polyester, vinyl ester, and epoxy. These materials are resistant to microbial degradation and that makes fiberglass resistant to degradation in soil.

Citations.

Russo, Salvatore; Ghadimi, Behzad; Lawania, Krishna; Rosano, Michele (December 2015). “Residual strength testing in pultruded FRP material under a variety of temperature cycles and values”. Composite Structures. 133: 458–475. doi:10.1016/j.compstruct.2015.07.034

Sukanto, Heru; Raharjo, Wijang Wisnu; Ariawan, Dody; Triyono, Joko; Kaavesina, Mujtahid (2021-01-01). “Epoxy resins thermosetting for mechanical engineering”. Open Engineering. 11 (1): 797–814. doi:10.1515/eng-2021-0078. 

Santosh K. Yadav, Kevin M. Schmalbach, Emre Kinaci, Joseph F. Stanzione III, Giuseppe R. Palmese (2018). “Recent advances in plant-based vinyl ester resins and reactive diluents”. European Polymer Journal. 98: 199–215. doi:10.1016/j.eurpolymj.2017.11.002

Park HS, Seo JA, Lee HY, Kim HW, Wall IB, Gong MS, Knowles JC (August 2012). “Synthesis of elastic biodegradable polyesters of ethylene glycol and butylene glycol from sebacic acid”. Acta Biomaterialia. 8 (8): 2911–8. doi:10.1016/j.actbio.2012.04.026

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