SU Polymer science student receives award in Nepal

If you are interested in how to combine wood and plastics successfully, Tiaan Basson, a doctoral research student in polymer science at Stellenbosch University can be a valuable source of information. At the recent World Forum on Advanced Materials (POLYCHAR 19) in Nepal, his research in this field was commended with a medal and a diploma of distinction for the best student presentation.

Tiaan Basson and his study leader, Prof Albert van Reenen, at POLYCHAR19 in Nepal.

POLYCHAR 19, which was held in Kathmandu in Nepal, brought together established polymer scientists from academia and industry, young researchers and students from over 50 countries to discuss recent trends and new avenues in advanced materials. The synthesis, characterisation and application of polymeric materials and bio related polymers were discussed during 163 oral presentations and 180 poster presentations.

Tiaan presented a poster on the effect of compatibilizers on the properties of wood polymer composites (WPCs).

WPCs are created when wood fibers are combined with specific polymers, and are widely used in the automotive and construction industries for a wide range of applications such as decking and paneling.

These materials have low processing costs, and while they are simple to make, it is not easy to consistently produce products with the required quality. “This is where Tiaan’s research is making a significant contribution”, says Prof Albert van Reenen of the SU Department of Chemistry and Polymer Science, who is supervising Tiaan’s PhD research along with Dr Martina Meincken of the SU Department of Forestry and Wood Science.

“When wood is successfully combined with a polymer, it helps to strengthen the type of plastic or building material that you are making,” Tiaan explains.

In his award winning poster, Tiaan focused on testing the effectiveness of two new types of compatibilizers, called polypropylene graft maleic anhydride (PP-g-MA) and ethylene vinyl alcohol (EvOH) that can be used to prepare recyclable WPCs.