Tabrizi and Yang research ways to produce a more environmentally friendly plastic

October 22, 2013

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Kevon Tabrizi
Teng Yang

PLATTEVILLE, Wis.­­­ — The University of Wisconsin-Platteville provides its students with a number of laboratories with sophisticated equipment designed to give them real world experience, including a state-of-the-art Center for Plastics Processing Technology. The center is dedicated to assisting the existing plastics industry through education and technical services, as well as attracting new plastics-related enterprises to the tri-state region. Students Teng Yang, an industrial technology management major from Oshkosh, Wis., and Kevon Tabrizi, a biology major with a plastics minor from Platteville, Wis., recently worked with The American Science and Technology Corporation by using the center’s capabilities to better address lignocellulosic biomass fractionation; more specifically, developing methods to use natural materials as coloring agents in recyclable plastics.

Tabrizi and Yang worked with the chief executive officer of The American Science and Technology Corporation, Ali Manesh, to publish the collaboration of their research findings. Manesh worked with others to present their work at national and international conferences in Omaha, Neb., and Montreal, Canada. Yang and Tabrizi also received guidance from their faculty advisor Dr. Majid Tabrizi.

“We wanted to work on going green,” said Yang. “Our research looked at whether or not there was a way we could produce a part with good texture that is up to code with current safety regulations. Our ideal goal was producing the color black, and it was a process that required us to go step by step. One of the best results was seeing the sample finally turn black.”

“Going green is the future,” said Kevon Tabrizi. “The plastic industry is one of the biggest in the state of Wisconsin, and we ultimately want to continue our work.”

Plastics made from corn have the ability to be composted and used as fertilizer, but the additives that give plastics colors aren’t so easily digested by the environment and have led to environmental and agricultural pollution problems. However, by using a material called lignin - a waste that the paper industry discards when it processes trees - Tabrizi and Yang have found a way to color plastics naturally without resorting to chemical additives. Thus, the final product is one that eliminates the waste from another industry by using it to create a plastic that can be safely composted without the risk of further pollution.

“Before this project, I didn’t have much industrial experience,” said Tabrizi. “Everything was new to me, but it was very useful to see how tests work. We learned how to do testing and how to put everything together, as well as sharing our ideas and work with different leaders. Our work helped us learn how to put together a good scientific report.”

Yang and Tabrizi will continue their work in plastics in the future through their partnership with Manesh and Dr. Majid Tabrizi. 

“We could have done normal summer jobs, but instead, we actually published research that gave us good reference points and better understanding of the material,” said Kevon Tabrizi. “It was a really good experience.”

Contact: Dr. Majid Tabrizi, industrial studies, (608) 342-1115, tabrizi@uwplatt.edu

Written by: Angela O’Brien, UW-Platteville University Information and Communications, (608) 342-1194, obrienan@uwplatt.edu

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