Could Polymer Foams Help in Solving the Global Energy Crisis?
Exciting research being conducted at QUB in collaboration with Kingspan Water & Energy aims to assist rotational moulders in the manufacturing of viable large-scale offshore wave energy generation devices. By learning more about the development of polymer foams, it is hoped that larger, more robust, and complex structures could be manufactured using the process in the future. The rotational moulding process has seen significant technological advancement in the last decade. Moving away from inefficient gas-powered equipment, to more efficient electronically heated moulds with robotic control instead. The PhD research project, led by Alex Pritchard, has introduced a new method of observing the growth of polymer foam structures, providing a glimpse of what happens inside of a mould. This has allowed for experiments of other conditions not typically used in the rotationally moulding process to be explored, such as the use of pressurised environments to control a foams growth. The new method is also being used to explore new materials and could be used in the future study of foamed recycled materials, possibly allowing consumer waste products to be given a new lease of life within future wave energy generation systems.