Research Highlights: Dylan Cousins
The goal of Dylan's research is to characterize the effect of molecular weight and polydispersity on the viscosity of polymer solutions that are relevant for polymer composite manufacturing by vacuum-assisted resin transfer molding (VARTM) for wind turbine blades.
Presently, wind turbine blades are made from thermosetting polymer composites. At the end of their life cycle, these materials are not cost-effective to recycle. Thermoplastic polymer matrices in the composites used for wind turbine blades represent a technology that will enable recycling of these parts, therefore reducing the cost. Additionally, thermoplastics open the possibility of reducing the in-mold fabrication time for these materials, thereby introducing another potential cost savings.
Viscosity control is key for a resin to potentially be viable for use in composite manufacturing. The viscosity of polymer solutions is determined by the molecular weight of the polymer, the quality of the solvent, the concentration of the polymer, the temperature, and the shear rate. Dylan's work uses shear rheology to determine the effect of these parameters on viscosity for a methyl methacrylate-based resin. Another goal of Dylan's work is to develop a mathematical model to correlate the well-established reaction kinetics to the viscosity via a c/c* scaling technique. Furthermore, a novel experiment developed by the group allows the measurement of the viscosity of a curing resin as a function of time to validate the mathematical model. In addition to mechanical testing to determine the properties of this specific resin system, these properties will be highly beneficial to designing a commercial wind turbine blade manufacturing process for thermoplastic resin systems.