Is FRP biodegradable?

This article shall address the question of the biodegradability of FRP.

It shall also cover other areas such as:

  • Definition of FRP.
  • Properties and applications of FRP.
  • Materials used to make FRP.
  • Environmental Impact of FRP.

Is FRP biodegradable?

No, FRP is formed from thermoplastics and other materials such as fiberglass which are not biodegradable.

Since biodegradation is the disintegration of organic substances by bacteria and fungi, the non-organic materials in FRP do not render it biodegradable.

What is FRP?

FRP stands for Fiber-reinforced plastic. This is a composite material that is made from a thermoplastic or thermoset plastic reinforced with fiber such as glass or wood.

The purpose of making a composite material is to integrate the properties of resin and plastic to come up with better material.

Properties of FRP.

The properties of FRP include the following:

  • It has high durability.
  • It has high stiffness.
  • It has damping abilities.
  • Contains high flexural strength.
  • It is resistant to corrosion.
  • It is resistant to fires, wear, and tear.
  • It is lightweight.
  • High compression properties.

Applications of FRP.

The following are the applications of fiber-reinforced plastic.

  • It is used to make bodies for trucks, trailers, and luxury vehicles due to its high strength-to-weight ratio.
  • They are used to make bridges; instead of slabs and beams.
  • They are in road construction to make rail guards, signboards, drainage systems, and gas, water, and sewage pipelines.
  • Carbon FRP is used in aerospace to make bodies of aircraft.
  • FRP is used in making sports equipment.
  • They are used to make firearms, camera tripods, and camping tents.
  • Aramid FRP is used in making bullet-proof, fire-resistant suits, and blast protection vehicles due to its high thermal and impact resistance.
  • They are used in the marine industries to make ship structures, rolling bridges, and floating ways.
  • Used in the power industry to construct wind turbine blades, and gas storage tanks because of their resistance to heat, non-flammable, and are tolerant to UV radiation.

Disadvantages of fiber-reinforced plastic.

The following are the disadvantages of using fiber-reinforced plastic.

  • They have very low strength in a direction perpendicular to the fiber.
  • Manufacturing and testing require highly specialized people.
  • They are non-biodegradable and therefore pollute the environment.

What is the structural composition of FRP?

FRP is made from plastics such as:

  • Epoxy.
  • Vinyl ester.
  • Polyester.
  • Polypropylene.
  • Phenol formaldehyde.

The plastics are reinforced with fibers such as:

  • Carbon.
  • Aramid.
  • Basalt.
  • Glass.

Epoxy.

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 the epoxy resin include:

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

Epoxy resin 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.

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.

Phenol-formaldehyde resin.

They are commonly known as phenoplasts. These are synthetic polymers of phenol and formaldehyde.

The hardening of the phenolic resins depends on the ratio and cross-linking between phenol and formaldehyde.

Phenolic resins have the following characteristics:

  • They are resistant to heat 
  • They are hard and hence durable.
  • They are highly stable.
  • They are resistant to an electrical charge.
  • They are resistant to chemical solvents.
  • They are brittle.
  • They are biodegradable.

Phenolic resins are used in the following ways.

  • Making electrical punch-through boards.
  • Making countertops.
  • Making duroplast which is used in automobiles.
  • Making higher-end billiard balls.
  • Making micro-balloons for density control.
  • In making brake shoes, brake pads, and clutch discs.

Polypropylene.

It is also called polypropene. It is a rigid, semi-crystalline thermoplastic polymer.

Properties of polypropylene.

The following are the properties of polypropylene.

  • Resistant to fats and oils.
  • Resistant to organic solvents.
  • It oxidizes under high temperatures into xylene, decalin, and tetralin.
  • It is semi-crystalline.
  • It is resistant to heat.
  • It is resistant to microbial degradation.

Uses of polypropylene.

The uses of polypropylene include the following.

  • Making plastic living hinges.
  • In the manufacturing of piping systems.
  • Making laboratory plastic equipment.
  • Making consumer-grade kettles.
  • Making plastic tubs for dairy products.
  • Making plastic containers.
  • Making disposable bottles.
  • Making car batteries.

Polyester.

This is a polymer that contains a repeat of ester groups. It is also called polyethylene terephthalate.

Properties of polyester plastic.

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.

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

Glass.

Glass is a non-crystalline solid. It can be found in natural form from volcanic rocks such as obsidian or can be synthesized from elements such as silicates by heating and rapid cooling.

Properties of glass.

The following are the properties of glass:

  • It is brittle.
  • It has a high ability to reflect and refract light.
  • It has a high refractive index.
  • It can be molded into different shapes like sheets and cups.
  • It is inert.
  • It has high resistance to chemicals.
  • It is a poor conductor of heat and electricity.
  • It is non-biodegradable.

Uses of glass.

The following are uses of glass:

  • It is used as a glazing material for windows.
  • It is used to make glass tableware such as wine glasses, jugs, plates, and bowls.
  • It is used to make laboratory equipment.
  • It is used to make optic glasses

Aramid.

This is a resin made by repeated units of amide molecules. It contains aromatic rings in its structure and therefore it is also called aromatic polyamide.

Aramid has high heat resistance, with its melting point as high as 500⁰C.

It is used in aerospace and military fields to make body armor fabrics, in marine cordage, in the enforcement of marine hulls, and as a replacement for asbestos.

Basalt fiber.

This is a fiber made from fine fibers of basalt. Basalt contains the minerals plagioclase, pyroxene, and olivine. 

Basalt fiber resembles fiberglass but it has better properties.

It is used in automotive and aerospace as a fireproof textile, and can also be used to produce camera tripods. 

It is also an absorbent for oil spills, for making high-pressure vessels, for making sports equipment, for making cavity wall ties, and for making car bodies.

Carbon fiber.

Carbon fiber is made by combining millions of carbon atoms. It is one of the most popular fibers.

Its properties include:

  • High stiffness.
  • High tensile strength.
  • High strength to weight ratio.
  • High-temperature tolerance. 
  • High chemical resistance.
  • Low thermal expansion.

Carbon fiber is used in:

  • It is used to make composite materials such as fiber-reinforced plastic.
  • Carbon filaments are used in the textile industry to make things like gloves, and clothes and also for knitting and braiding.
  • In fabricating carbon-fiber microelectrodes.

Is FRP eco-friendly?

Yes, according to a study, FRP materials are sustainable and have less impact on the environment. They are lightweight and that means less energy is needed for transportation and therefore less carbon pollution.

Their durability means that a lot of energy that would have been used in repairs will be saved. 

Conclusion.

The article has addressed the question of the biodegradability of FRP.

It has also covered other areas such as:

  • The properties of FRP.
  • The applications of FRP.
  • The disadvantages of FRP.
  • The composition of FRP.

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

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs): Is FRP biodegradable?

What are the disadvantages of FRP?

The main disadvantage of FRP is their high costs.

They are also non-biodegradable and if not disposed of well can result in environmental pollution.

What type of plastic is FRP?

Fiber-reinforced plastic is a composite material that contains plastic such as polypropene, vinyl ester, polyester, and fibers such as carbon, basalt, and glass.

What are the advantages of FRP?

FRP are lightweight, they are designed flexible, and resistant to corrosion, abrasions, UV radiation, and heat.

Citations.

ClubTechnical. (October 21, 2018). Fiber Reinforced Plastic: Types, Advantages, Disadvantages, Applications.

Retrieved from:

Naderpour, H.; Nagai, K.; Fakharian, P.; Haji, M. (1 May 2019). “Innovative models for prediction of compressive strength of FRP-confined circular reinforced concrete columns using soft computing methods”. Composite Structures. 215: 69–84. doi:10.1016/j.compstruct.2019.02.048. 

Synthetic Resin – Use in Aircraft Construction, The Times, London England, 5 October 1936, page 14, Issue 47497

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