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Pulverization: Solid State Shear Extrusion



screw speed, feed rate and temperature are varied for

specific material, to control degree of shear and
particle size of the resultant powder [2].

Solid-State Shear Extrusion is an innovative process

produces polymeric powders with unique physical
properties, which is not found in the output of
conventional size-reduction methods such as ambient
or cryogenic grinding. This technology utilizes a
pulverizer based on modified co-rotating twin-screw
extruder made by German manufacturer Berstorff,
has profound implication for both creation of new
polymer blends and recycling of plastic and rubber
waste [1].
There are three sizes of pulverizer available by
Berstroff, which are laboratory size (25mm in
diameter) pulverizer, a pilot-scale (40mm in
diameter) pulverizer, and production size pulverizer
(60mm and 90mm in diameter) pulverizer. The
pulverizer utilizes a patented barrel design for
cooling, which allows it to maintain a processing
temperature below the melting point (for
semicrytalline polymer and below the glass transition
temperature (for amorphous polymer) [2].
The main equipment for SSSE or elastic-deformation
grinding, is a co-rotating twin- screw extruder with a
set of kneading or shearing elements arranged along
the shafts. SSSE does not require major machinery
modification, but the screw configuration needs to be
customized for the polymer or blend being processed.
In particular, the process requires screw with more
kneading elements than conventional extruder [6].
The screw consisting of series of kneading (shearing)
elements, are designed to compress, shear and mix
the polymer or polymer mixtures as the feedstock
moves along the barrel by use of conveying elements.
Due to modular screw design, the combination of
elements is tailored to achieve various degrees of
shear and different residence times. In addition,

Figure 1: Solid State Shear Extruder with single screw

Shear induced heat is removed from the polymer by

intensive external cooling provided by the circulating
chilled water around the outside of the extruder
barrel. Chipped or coarsely ground plastic flakes are
thus compressed and comminuted by simultaneously
applying pressure in the range 0.25-0.30 MPa and a
shear force, while the polymer is constantly cooled to
a temperature in the range 15-60C [5].

SSSE is the only technology that can take the most
common plastic in the waste stream, such as HDPE,
LDPE, PP, PET, PS and PVC and collectively convert
them to a useful powdered product. Indeed in some
cases, the properties of the comingled blend actually
out-formed single-resin post-consumer recyclate. For
instance, when mixture of HDPE and PET (40:60) is
ground using SSSE, its properties when moulded into
test specimens, are superior to those moulded from
sorted HDPE.

Under these conditions, plastic flake is converted to

a fine powder or in some cases a fluff. The geometry
and average particle size of the pulverized recycled
polymer can be varied by changing the configuration
of the screw elements and their location along the
shaft, as well as by manipulating the processing
conditions during the pulverization stage. The key to
effective size reduction by solid state extrusion is to
balance the temperature of the polymer, with the high
shear rates.

This is interesting as given that HDPE and PET are

incompatible polymers. The HDPE-PET blend
produced by SSSE had an ultimate tensile strength
and a notched Izod impact strength of 4100 psi and
0.7 ft-lb/in. respectively. While, the ultimate tensile
strength and a notched Izod impact of sorted HDPE
recyclate are 2870 psi and 0.5 ft-lb/in. respectively.
Because of the fine powder size that can be formed
(200 m), it is to be expected that a number of
bonds will have ruptured during the size reduction. In
fact, electron spin resonance spectroscopy studies
support this theory.

An improved version of twin screw extruder process,

solid state shear extrusion (SSSE), was developed by
reseachers at IIT. Aeastoopour developed the single
screw extruder version of SSE process which is less
costly. Basically, SSSE is based on the principle of
creating a larger free surface by simultaneous action
of high pressure and shear deformation [4]. Through
the optimization of the three critical process
parameters, that is pressure, shear strain and
temperature, a solid polymer can be directly
converted into a powdered material with high

As a result of extensive bond rupture during SSSE, a

number of reactive sites are formed that are believed
to be involved in improving the compatibility of
normally incompatible plastics. Indeed this may be
why such good material properties were measured for
blends of HDPE and PET produced by SSSE. Thus
SSSE not only eliminates the need for sorting

commingled plastics, but also can produce useful

Another interesting characteristics of polymer
subjected to SSSE is that the resultant commingled
powder is surprisingly uniform and has a light pastel
colour. In contrast, commingled material produced by
conventional extrusion is usually a dirty green or
olive drab colour. When SSSE powders powders are
injection moulded into plaques, they generally
produce samples with a homogenous colour and
smooth and shiny surfaces. In contrast, samples
moulded directly fromm as-received post-consumer
flake, generally exhibit a marble effect with light and
dark swirl pattern [5].
Furthermore, microscopic examination of the fine
powders produced by SSSE show them to have

Solid-state dispersion of heat-sensitive

Engineered plastic/rubber blends

This concept was originally developed in 1935 by P.
W. Bridgeman of Harrard University. It was
demonstrated that under the combined action of high
pressure and shear deformation, and in absence of
heating, samples of material adopt a plastic flow
state. The extent of plastic flow, that is the degree of
deformation is practically unlimited. During plastic
flow, a network of micro-cracks begins to form in the
material. Such micro-cracks form as a result of elastic
energy accumulated in the body. Under the action of

Figure 2: Size reduction of polymer during SSSE

smooth surfaces-characteristic of solid-shearing

processes. In contrast, polymer powders produced by
blade grinding processes are characterized by
morphology with sharp, angular surfaces. Another
advantage of SSSE process is that it should be much
more energy efficient than conventional repetitive
grinding, because pulverization occurs in a single
step [5].
The major capabilities of shear solid state extrusion
can be summarized as follows:

Continuous powder production from plastic

or rubber feedstocks
Blending of immiscible polymers
Efficient mixing of polymes with unmatched
Environmently friendly recycling of
multicoloured, commingled plastic waste

high pressure and shear deformation, this elastic

energy is released and is spent on the formation of
new surface, ultimately leads to the formation of a
fine powder [3].

SSSE also known as solid state, elastic deformation

grinding, essentially subjects the polymer to high
shear and high pressure in a co-rotating screw
extruder, while rapidly removing heat from the
process. As the result, no melting actually takes place
and the polymer is converted into a relatively
uniform powder. It has been suggested that this form
of grinding can converted low performance,
commingled, post-consumer, recycled plastics into
useful blends without the need of compatibilizers [5].

3 diagram of SSSE
Figure 3: Schematic

SSSE is thus a continuous, single-pass process to

convert post-consumer plastics to uniform powder
with a fine particle size and narrow particle size
distribution (Figure 3). When optimal processing
conditions are used, spontaneous fragmentation of the
polymer granules occurs to give particles which are
smaller than any of the clearance in the extruder.
SSSE pulverization can give powders with particle
sizes ranging from 2000 m down to 20 m.

operation and usually have different colors with the

number of colors present in the scrap feedstock
depending upon the particular composition of the
The scrap flakes typically have sizes in the range of
0.10 to 0.30 inches for maximum width dimension
and 0.02 to 0.06 inches for thickness dimension,
although the as-collected scrap material can be
comminuted to other flake sizes and shapes for solid
state pulverization pursuant to the invention. A
conventional scrap chopping machine of the grinder
type can be used in practicing the invention, although
other comminuting machines also can be used to this

Solid-state Shear extrusion is a novel process that

uses mechanical energy to cause mechanochemical
alteration of some of the polymer chains. The process
pulverizes polymers and result in fine powders.
Fragmentation involves a limited amount chain
cleavage depending on the levels of mechanical strain
developed and the molecular weight distribution of
material [3].

The comminuted sorted or unsorted, commingled

scrap flakes are supplied as feedstock to effect solid
state shear pulverization of the flake scrap material in
accordance with the invention. Comminuted
unsorted, commingled scrap material from different
sources can be fed to the pulverizer as feedstock. Still
further, comminuted unsorted, commingled scrap
material from different sources can be fed to the
pulverizer as distinct, sequential feedstocks.
Alternately, comminuted flake scrap material that is
sorted so as to have a single polymer composition or
generic type (e.g. HDPE, PP, etc.) can be fed to the
pulverizer as feedstock.

SSSE involves processing a feed stream or shredded

polymer fed into a modified co-rotating twin extruder
with cooling applied along the barrel where heat is
ordinarily applied. The in-process material is not
allowed to enter the molten stage; otherwise, the
process would fail to have desired effect.
Accordingly, the discharged material is desired, freeflowing powder.
Feed material may include any or all of plastics,
fibers, rubbers, or any combination of them suitable
for SSSE process. The essential action responsible for
the benefits of SSSE lies in the intense shear stresses
to which in-process particles become subjected. This
process not only performs size reduction very
efficiently, but also produces particles whose surface
areas have been modified to be chemically reactive.
Such reactivity created by the mechanical process is
termed mechanochemistry [1].



Before or after cleaning, the as-collected, scrap
material, whether of the sorted or unsorted,
commingled type, initially is comminuted by
grinding, chopping or shredding prior to
pulverization to provide a polymeric scrap feedstock
comprising flakes. The flakes typically have sharp,
angular surfaces resulting from the comminution


Khait, K., Carr. S. H. and Mack, M. H.,

Solid-state Shear Pulverization: A new
Technology, (2001)


Sadhan, K. D., Isayev A and Khait, K.,

Rubber Recycling,


Schelrs, J., Polymer Recycling, p.94-97



Riahi, A., Arastoopour, J. L.H., Inanov, G.

and Shutov., Proc. ANTEC93,891 (1993)


Khait, K.,Proc. ANTECC94, 3006 (1994)


Ogando, J., Plastic Technol., June, p. 37