At Skaza, a lot of attention is devoted to the product’s quality. That is the reason why beside our own measuring methods, we also engage external institutions with their specialized equipment. Due to the complexity of the characterization of polymeric materials, granules, dyes and final products, we normally cooperate with the Faculty of Polymer Technology (FTPO), where we are one of the cofounders. With their knowledge and analytical equipment, it is easy to solve issues that arise in the R&D phase and during the production of our products.
Highly qualified researchers and scientists with their advanced laboratory equipment are needed to enable us to advance and finalise our work, with a goal to create a cutting edge, high quality products from sustainable materials. Recently, we made a big step with the bio-based plastic materials that are in contact with food and with the recycled plastics used for our technical products and fermentation containers – Bokashi Organko.
Identifying the material
Polymer recycling is an important part in the life cycle of the plastic industry. Large amounts of bottles and containers, which were once destined for landfills, are now recycled into new products. To ensure the proper material quality for our customers, it is essential to identify the material properties as precisely as possible. One of the key methods for identification of material properties is Differential Scanning Calorimetry (DSC). DSC, available at the Faculty of Polymer Technology, allows us to detect changes in enthalpy, resulting from the physical and chemical properties of the material, by comparing the change in temperature between a sample and a reference as a function of time. This technique is ideal for development of the new materials and Quality control, since it gives us important information about the processing temperatures, thermal stability, degradation, reactivity, purity and many others. It is also suitable for the characterization of recycled materials, since it is possible to check the content of unwanted plastics and a change of the melting temperature because of degradation. Temperature during the reprocessing of the polymer as well as the cooling rate is very important to control the polymer crystallinity. To mimic the process and understand what is happening during the actual production process, a DSC is required. Not only DSC also Thermogravimetric Analyser (TGA) is highly recommended for the development of new materials. TGA enables us the continuous monitoring of the change in mass of a sample in dependence of temperature and atmosphere composition. It can easily determine the content of volatile components in polymers, such as solvents, plasticisers, monomers, etc. The mentioned methods enable us to transfer the newly developed bio-based (BIO-PE) material to real production. For the first time, we at Skaza used BIO-PE for our own brand Pick&Go, the innovative picnic set.
Sometimes we are interested in even more detailed and specific analysis of our materials or final products. One of the most commonly used methods is Fourier transform infrared spectroscopy (FT-IR). IR radiation passes through a sample, where some radiation is absorbed by the specimen while the rest of it, is transmitted. The resulting signal is represented as a spectrum, which can be considered a molecular ‘fingerprint’ of the sample and enables chemical characterization and interaction studies between individual components in various materials, and production processes. Because different chemical structures (molecules), have different spectral fingerprints, by using FT-IR spectroscopy, contaminants in products can be easily identified, quality of materials can be confirmed and manufacturing problems can be solved. Because FT-IR enables us to identify chemical composition and interactions, the method is also often used to evaluate product oxidation by observing the carbonyl functional group, C=O peaks at wavelengths of approximately 1730 cm-1
Partners from the Faculty have their FT-IR equipped with Attenuated Total Reflectance attachment (ATR). The ATR attachment enables us routine analysis of solids with little or in some cases no sample preparation. Our partners from the Faculty have the ability to combine the FT-IR and TGA methods, Using TG-IR combination technique, breakdown products from decomposition and combustion can be analysed. The gas transfer system ensures high sensitivity and minimum sample contamination. Measuring the gas released as a material is heated up and decomposes, allows qualitative identification of the gas components to complement the purely quantitative information provided by measuring the weight loss.
High level of safety and reliability
More and more demands are being voiced in order to improve safety and reliability in different kind of industries such as automotive, electrical and others. To assure the guaranteed service life of a final product, it is important to consider the fatigue response of the material. To evaluate this, a Dynamic Mechanical Analyzer (DMA) is used. Responses of the material caused by the mechanical deformation, are studied. By using this method, product defects could be detected and a comparison between the mechanical properties during different production stages could be analysed.
In Skaza we tend to employ students from different technical and material science faculties such as FTPO. We invite students to conduct internships, holiday work, seminars and their final thesis during study. We also encourage our employees to advance their knowledge with studying or educating themselves in the Faculty of Polymer Technology.
Branka Viltužnik, Head of Research and Innovation, Skaza