Plastics research could put Troy on the map

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Tomiwa Akintode

Staff Writer

A $3.2 million grant is being put to use to create a Center for Materials and Manufacturing Sciences.

The grant was given to Troy University by the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) in 2018, and the school of science and technology has been putting those funds to use,  hoping to put Troy on the map in the world of recycling science.

The research facility has been noted to bring about competitiveness in the polymer and plastic industry around the region and the global marketplace. 

So far, the grant has been used to convert classrooms into to a lab space filled with equipment, with another classroom in the process of being completed.

A new facility is also in the works so more lab spaces can be added to continue the research process.

“We have, at the moment, two rooms, and we are also working on a third lab space,” said Govind Menon, director of the School of Science and Technology and the chair of the Department of Chemistry and Physics. “We also plan to get a new building, and as for anything else, we have to wait a while before that happens.”

Menon says this research project means that Troy University will get to be a national player in the science of plastic recycling and polymer science. 

“We have a chance to be a national player when it comes to the science of plastic recycling, not the actual physical recycling,” he said. “But how we can go about finding out to how we can systematically find methods to effectively recycle.”

For Troy students, this research project means students can gain more knowledge and  rare hands-on experience with research in polymer science to help bolster their resumes and open new potential job opportunities.

As for faculty members, they will get to show their expertise in the subject.

The Center for Materials and Manufacturing Sciences is already up and running in the Math and Science Complex. 

“I have been doing research for three years before the NIST program started, and when it opened I got involved,” said Alex Mote, a senior chemistry major from Prattville, Alabama. “The experience has been pretty enjoyable so far.

“We have lab equipments used to analyze polymer, which is really great compared to other facilities.”

The research is aimed at making products safer for use.

“The research I’m currently working on is synthesizing nanoparticle-polymer hybrids and seeing which best absorb styrene out of water,” said Reese Tourne, a junior chemistry major from Sweet Water, Alabama. “This is important because styrene is a central nervous system-damaging toxin that is produced when plastic is recycled, which later finds its way into our water supplies.”

Making sure toxins stay out of water systems keeps citizens safer and disease-free.

Students have the option of taking classes in polymer chemistry, which the Science and Technology Department has created, if they want to be involved in the research project.

There are also hopes for a polymer engineering program in the future.

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