The mission of Lehigh Technologies (Lehigh), manufacturers of the PolyDyneTM family of fine and ultra-fine rubber powders, is to “redefine the markets for rubber, industrial inputs and specialty chemicals by using proprietary technologies, innovative processes and re-claimed raw materials to produce products with superior price-to-performance characteristics and provide them to customers with world class quality, service and reliability.” Much of Lehigh’s current work focuses on integrating the PolyDyneTM fine and ultra fine powders into tires or other rubber products, plastics and chemicals.
Lehigh has collaborated with the Sustainable Design and Manufacturing program to provide students with real problems to solve in the classroom. The following projects were performed for Lehigh Technologies in ME 4182 – Capstone Design
Rubber recycling process redesign (Fall 2007): This project focused on finding alternative technologies and process improvements related to the current Tucker Facility. Among others it was found that adding insulation and thermocouples with heating controllers on the current system would save close to $76,000/year. Changing the electric heaters to natural gas radiant tube heating would save almost $110,000/year. The energy savings would result in a reduction of 560 tons of CO2 emissions annually.
Liquid Nitrogen Utilization (Fall 2007): The focus of this project was to determine secondary uses of the cold nitrogen that is currently vented from the process. A number of options were evaluated and the re-use of the nitrogen in the facility’s air-conditioning system was explored further. A modified AC system was designed and annual savings of $6000 are anticipated.
Lehigh Second Facility Design (Spring 2008): In this project, the focus is to do a “clean-sheet” facility design for Lehigh’s new recycling facility (location to be determined). Although the project has not fully been completed, preliminary results indicate that using a pneumatic (air) based powder transport and heating system (a similar concept like used in pharmaceutical industries) is technically very feasible and seems to result in significant savings compared to the current oil jacketed auger system. In addition, onsite regeneration and reliquification of the exhaust nitrogen is investigated and preliminary investigations show significant financial savings from such a closed loop system, especially if part of the vented nitrogen can be used to cool the compressors instead of water (the typical practice in current technology).
Cryogenic E-Waste Recycling (Spring 2008): The focus of this project is to investigate the potential for e-waste recycling using Lehigh’s cryogenic turbo shearing mill. Initial results using printed circuit board materials indicate that shown that a e-waste does not have to be cooled as much as rubber for fine grinding and b) fine ground e-waste powder might allow superior material stream separation using electrostatic separation. Experiments with controlled material mixes show that electrostatic separation can separate powder in high purity material streams. A specific target material in this project is copper due to its high density in printed circuit boards.