CTC Research Projects

Carbon Fiber Modified Asphalt

In FY 1999, the CTC supported development of a proposal to evaluate using carbon fibers to improve the properties and performance of asphalt. This involved basic laboratory work to validate the concept and collection of information about market size and potential. The initial results were encouraging. Consequently, Conoco funded a sponsored research agreement (Dr. Tom Van Dam: Principal Investigator (PI), Julie King and Larry Sutter: Co- PI’s and Jeff Meyers: Project Monitor) entitled "Carbon Fiber Modified Asphalt: Phase 0".

A key finding of the Phase 0 work was that modifying asphalt with carbon fibers appeared to significantly improve the resistant to rutting (permanent deformation which occurs during warm weather). Hence, Conoco funded a second sponsored research agreement (Dr. Tom Van Dam: PI, Drs. Julie King and Jian Ping Dong: Co-PI’s; Jeff Meyers: Project Monitor) entitled "Demonstrating the Functionality of Carbon Fiber Modified Asphalt Mixtures: Phase I". This study developed the data needed to support a field trial. Mr. Aren Cleven was the graduate student working on this project. Conoco also funded another related but separate sponsored research agreement (Dr. Tom Van Dam : PI, Jeff Meyers: Project Monitor) entitled "Demonstrating the Functionality and Cost Effectiveness of Carbon Fiber as an Additive to Crack Sealant and Filler: Phase 0". Mr. A. Tolga Apul was the graduate student working on this project. 

Conoco sponsored another related but separate research agreement (Dr. Julia King : PI, Dr. Tom Van Dam and Pat Heiden (Chemistry) Co PI) entitled "Carbon Fiber Modified Asphalt Delivery System and Preforms". This study consisted of two separate parts. In the first part, Dr. Julie King and her graduate student Rebecca Fitzgerald produced 5 lbs of Conoco carbon fiber that was encapsulated in LDPE by using an LDPE (Low Density Polyethylene) emulsion. This material was then tested in a field trial by Jeff Meyers (Conoco) in Ponca City, OK in 1Q 2000 using a pug mill mixer.   In the second part of this study, we successfully fabricated a carbon-carbon veil using Conoco carbon fiber and Conoco pitch.

Conoco sponsored another research agreement (Dr. Chris Williams : PI) entitled “Investigation of the Properties of Carbon Fiber Modified Asphalt Mixtures and Use of Carbon Fibers as an Interlayer Stress Relief for Payment Overlays“. This project lasted from June 1, 2001 to December 31, 2002. The research work concentrated on two areas: field production of trial mixes using asphalt drum plant and laboratory mixture designs.  Volumetric characterization of both field produced and laboratory produced mixtures has been completed. The laboratory performance testing focused on permanent deformation and thermal cracking.  Results of this work are shown in Bruce Wiljanen's M.S. thesis entitled "The Pavement Performance and Life-Cycle Cost Impacts of Carbon Fiber Modified Hot Mix Asphalt (Download PDF)".

Conductive Resins

A second major focus area for technology development was conductive resins. The goal of this work is to develop cost effective conductive resins using various forms of carbon as conductive elements. Four sponsored research projects were funded during FY 2000. The first project was funded by NSF (Dr. Julie King: PI) entitled "Determination and Modelling of Synergistic Effects of Carbon Based Conductive Fillers for Electrically and Thermally Conductive Resins".  Electrically and thermally conductive resins are commercially produced today in limited quantities. However, demand for thermally and electrically conductive resins is rapidly growing due to more stringent regulation on electronic noise, as well as the increased need for smaller, more densely packed electronic components. The vast majority of the conductive resins available today or studied in the past utilize only one type of conductive filler. In prior work, the PI has noted a positive synergistic effect when three different carbon-based conductive fillers are combined in nylon 6,6 matrix material. Hence, in this study, a factorial design approach was used to determine the effect of three different commercially available and cost effective carbon-based conductive fillers on the thermal and electrical conductivity of a polycarbonate and a nylon 6,6 based conductive resin. Electrical (download PDF file, Matt Clingerman's dissertation) and thermal (download PDF file, Erik Weber's dissertation) conductivity testing is complete, along with analysis of results and modelling.  Shielding effectiveness results  (download PDF file, Quinton Krueger's thesis) are also completed.  The mechanical properties (notched Izod impact strength, tensile properties, etc) of these resins were also investigated (download PDF file, Jeremiah Konell's dissertation).  

The second conductive resin project was funded by Chrysler which provided fellowship support (stipend, tuition, and fees) for Erik Weber, Chemical Engineering graduate student. This project also investigated the synergistic effects of adding 3 different carbon fillers, which were PAN based carbon fiber, carbon black, and Conoco’s ThermocarbTM Specialty Graphite, in nylon 6,6 matrix material.

Conoco has funded two conductive resin sponsored research agreements with Dr. Julie King as the PI and Jeff Meyers as the Project Monitor. The first agreement is entitled "Carbon Fiber Conductive Resins (CFCR)" and the second project is entitled "Continuation of CFCR " . Both of these projects involve studying the effect (tensile, impact, thermal and electrical conductivity) of adding varying amounts of different carbon fillers in polycarbonate and nylon matrix materials.

DaimlerChrylser also provided fellowship support (stipend, tuition, and fees) for Jessica Heiser, Chemical Engineering M.S. graduate student for Fall'02 and Spring'03.  This project investigates the synergistic effects of adding 3 different carbon fillers (1/8" chopped PAN based carbon fiber, carbon black, and Conoco’s ThermocarbTM TC-300 Specialty Graphite) in nylon 6,6 matrix material. This project is complete (download PDF file, Jessica Heiser's M.S. thesis).

The Department of Energy funded a project titled " Michigan Technology Center for Nanostructure and Lightweight Materials in the Department of Chemical Engineering at Michigan Technological University" from June 15, 2004 until December 31, 2005. Dr. Michael Mullins is the PI of this project. As a part of this project (Co-PI:J. A. King, $104,221), various conductive carbons (carbon black, synthetic graphite particles, natural flake graphite, and calcined petroleum coke) were added to Ticona's Vectra A950 RX Liquid Crystal Polymer (LCP) to produce conductive resins for possible use for bipolar plates for fuel cells. 

The National Science Foundation funded ($311,950) a project titled " Development and Modeling of Highly Conductive Carbon Filled Thermoplastic Resins for Fuel Cell Bipolar Plate Applications", which began on May 1, 2005 and lasts until April 30, 2008. Dr. Julia King is the PI. Drs. Jason Keith and Eve Steigerwalt (Dana Corporation in Paris, TN) are the co-PI's. The first objective of this project is to determine the effects of different carbon based fillers on the composite thermal and electrical conductivity. The second objective is to fabricate and test a fuel cell bipolar plate at Dana. The third objective is to develop improved conductivity models for highly filled conductive resins. Rebecca A. Hauser is the Ph.D. candidate assigned to this project.

The Boeing Company funded a project titled "Investigation into the Enhancement of Thermoplastic Polymers with Conductive Nano Materials" from May 2008 to August 2012. Dr. Julia King is the Principal Investigator (PI).

Carbon for Structural and Noise Reduction Applications

NASA funded a project titled "Multiscale Model Development and Validation of Graphene/ULTEM Composites for Structural and Noise Reduction Applications" for $354,693 for June 10, 2011 to June 9, 2014. Dr. Greg Odegard (Mechanical Engineering) is the Principal Investigator and Drs. Julia King (Chemical Engineering) and Warren Perger (Electrical Engineering) are the co- PI's.

Carbon in Engineered Wood Products

MTU has a long history of quality research in the area of forestry and wood products. In FY 2000, the CTC expended funds to investigate the uses of carbon in wood composites.  It was proposed that adding a thermally conductive material , such as carbon, to wood composites could potentially increase the production rates of wood composites which are consolidated by compression molding machines. After obtaining favorable initial results which indicate that the addition of a small amount of Conoco's ThermocarbTM Specialty Graphite to OSB (Oriented Strand Board) may allow an increase in OSB production rate by allowing the heat to reach the core of the OSB faster in the compression molding step.  Hence, Conoco sponsored a research agreement (Dr. Laurent Matuana: PI, Dr. Julie King: Co-PI) "Carbon Fillers in Oriented Strand Board."  Bill Yrjana (staff personnel) and Katie Torrey (Chemical Engineering M.S. Student) worked on this project (download PDF file,  Katie's M. S. thesis).

Carbon in Foundry Sand

Conoco funded a sponsored research agreement (Dr. Karl Rundman: PI, Drs. John Sandell and Julie King : Co PI’s) from June 1999 to June 2000 entitled " A Study of Calcined Petroleum Coke as an Alternative Molding Media to Produce Metal Castings". In this project, survey work was preformed on the structure of various carbons that are currently used in the foundry industry as sand substitutes. Results showed that all the carbons investigated consumed a large amount of the liquid binders used to produce cores. This was deemed to be a result of the fractured, high surface area/unit volume of the carbons. This result is in agreement with the experience of all of the foundries that have been consulted.

Conoco funded another sponsored research agreement (Dr. Karl Rundman: PI) from March 2000 to May 2001 entitled "The Physical Properties of Petroleum Coke Materials and Molding Sands Produced from Petroleum Coke" . This project involved visiting four foundries that have used or are currently using petroleum coke as a sand substitute. These visits have involved MTU (Drs. Karl Rundman, Todd King, and John Sandell) and Conoco (Steve Harris, Bob Griffin) personnel. These visits have provided basic information to the Conoco team concerning the practical realities of producing a product that can compete in the foundry sand market.


Major Research Instrumentation

In June 2000, MTU was awarded a National Science Foundation (NSF) Major Research Instrumentation grant entitled "The Acquisition of Instrumentation for Microstructural Characterization of Materials that are Non-Conductive or Include Volatile Phases ". Dr. Tom Van Dam is the PI of this grant with the following people as co-PI : Larry Sutter, Julie King, Laurent Matuana, Sheila Grant, and Debbie Wright. Four of the six people involved in this project are involved in the CTC. This grant provides funds for MTU to purchase an environmental scanning electron microscope (ESEM) and an x-ray microscope. With the ESEM, samples can be viewed in a relatively high pressure environment (as compared to a conventional SEM), which acts to dissipate any electrical charge that may develop on non-conducting specimens while eliminating the volatilization of water or other phases within the specimen. In addition, the ESEM is equipped to perform chemical analyses using an energy dispersive x-ray analyzer (EDS) and a electron backscatter diffraction mapping system for orientation image mapping (OIM). This equipment can be used to characterize carbon fiber modified asphalt, carbon fiber conductive resins, and carbon/oriented strand board composites. In addition, this equipment could be used to characterize petroleum needle coke and carbon fiber by using crystallographic texture maps to show structure properties. The x-ray microscope uses a focused x-ray flux to form compositional maps and images of internal material structures. The novel design allows a specimen to be viewed at atmospheric pressure and microanalysis can be performed to determine chemical composition and crystallographic orientation of the phases present.

Carbon Foam

From August 2000 to February 2001, a DOE (Department of Energy)  SBIR grant was funded entitled “Tailorable, Inexpensive Carbon Foam Electrodes for High-Efficiency Fuel Cell and Electrochemical Applications”.   In this project MTU (Dr. Tony Rogers) interacted with Touchstone Research (Dr. Darren Rogers, www.trl.com) to demonstrate the feasibility of employing low-cost bituminous coal-based carbon foams as electrodes for fuel cells, batteries, and electrochemical cells.  Cyclic voltammetry, using a ferrosene couplet and KCl electrolyte test system, was employed to screen raw material and foam heat treatment conditions.  Electrochemical performance then was correlated with chemical and microstructural analysis of the foams to suggest avenues for foam design to optimize electrochemical behavior.  This scoping study demonstrated:

Touchstone (Janusz Pulinski and Charles Rowe) and MTU (PI: Dr. Tony Rogers, Chemical Engineering M.S. candidates: Alamjeet Bhatia, Janelle Meyer, and Wen Nee Yeo) received a Phase II DOE SBIR grant ($750,000 effort, of which $150,000 is being directed to MTU, project duration is from November 2001 to September 2003) titled “Inexpensive, High Performance Fuel Cell Electrodes and Batteries Made from Cellular Coal.” This research is exploring carbon foam performance in practical battery and fuel cell systems, with the aim of commercializing coal-based carbon foam electrodes, marketed as CFOAMTM by Touchstone, for vehicle and industrial power systems.  A brief description of the project tasks follows:

o      Carbon Foam Morphology: Analysis techniques include Scanning Electron Microscopy, Energy Dispersive Spectroscopy, and surface area measurement via nitrogen isotherm.

o      Electrochemical Performance: A potentiostat and a computer data acquisition system have been installed in our laboratory to study electrode performance. Electrode samples are being tested by cyclic voltammetry in pertinent redox  and electrolyte systems. Also, the discharge characteristics and durability of the electrodes in the presence of electrolyte solutions are currently being examined.