Flush with a year of concurrent funding from Enterprise Ireland and the Irish Environmental Protection Agency, Stanley and his team are now working to push the technology closer to commercialization. This includes a cost-benefit analysis of radiofrequency presses, conversations with industry professionals and a technical data sheet that demonstrates material properties such as rigidity, strength, temperature performance, impact resistance and acoustic emissions.

Stanley says that his motivation is simple: “I just want to help fight the wastage of materials and the seepage of materials into our marine environment that is causing untold damage. If it is proven successful, I hope that countries around the world can embrace it and say, ‘Look we can make better plastics from this PET.’”

CFRP Plays Ball at March Madness

Project: CFRP hand brace

School: Michigan State University

Location: East Lansing, Mich.

Principal Investigators: Lawrence T. Drzal and Tamara Reid Bush

Shortly before this year’s NCAA tournament, Michigan State University (MSU) basketball player Nick Ward broke his finger and underwent hand surgery. With Ward on the mend and the tournament looming, athletic trainer Nick Richey reached out to the university’s College of Engineering for help creating a lightweight brace that would protect Ward’s finger when he returned to play. In just one week, a team of MSU engineers designed and fabricated a customized CFRP brace that enabled Ward to safely play in the tournament.

“It seemed like a nice challenge,” recalls Lawrence T. Drzal, distinguished professor of chemical materials and materials science, who received the initial call. Drzal contacted Tamara Reid Bush, an associate professor of mechanical engineering who has expertise in hand function, injury and rehabilitation. One day after Richey’s call, Drzal, Reid Bush and colleagues met with Ward and Richey to strategize. By the end of the meeting, they had agreed on a CFRP brace.

“We looked at different materials, and obviously, carbon fiber had the highest stiffness and strength-to-weight ratio,” Drzal explains. “And we wanted something that would be easy to use and to form, so we went with a carbon fiber epoxy prepreg.”

Initially, the engineers considered bracing the entire hand, but Richey suggested CRFP plates to cover the front and back of the palm instead. He would then sew the plates into a glove to give Ward some mobility while still protecting the injured finger. To help design the CFRP plates, Reid Bush and graduate students first made a 3D scan of Ward’s hand. Next, they measured the amount of loading that Ward’s hand would undergo during a game by asking Ward’s teammate, Xavier Tillman, to dribble and pass a basketball into force plates that were mounted on the floor and wall.