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Title: Thermal homogeneity and energy efficiency in single screw extrusion of polymers : the use of in-process metrology to quantify the effects of process conditions, polymer rheology, screw geometry and extruder scale on melt temperature and specific energy consumption
Author: Vera-Sorroche, Javier
ISNI:       0000 0004 6495 2211
Awarding Body: University of Bradford
Current Institution: University of Bradford
Date of Award: 2014
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Polymer extrusion is an energy intensive process whereby the simultaneous action of viscous shear and thermal conduction are used to convert solid polymer to a melt which can be formed into a shape. To optimise efficiency, a homogeneous melt is required with minimum consumption of process energy. In this work, in-process monitoring techniques have been used to characterise the thermal dynamics of the single screw extrusion process with real-time quantification of energy consumption. Thermocouple grid sensors were used to measure radial melt temperatures across the melt flow at the entrance to the extruder die. Moreover, an infrared sensor flush mounted at the end of the extruder barrel was used to measure non-invasive melt temperature profiles across the width of the screw channel in the metering section of the extruder screw. Both techniques were found to provide useful information concerning the thermal dynamics of the extrusion process; in particular this application of infrared thermometry could prove useful for industrial extrusion process monitoring applications. Extruder screw geometry and extrusion variables should ideally be tailored to suit the properties of individual polymers but in practise this is rarely achieved due the lack of understanding. Here, LDPE, LLDPE, three grades of HDPE, PS, PP and PET were extruded using three geometries of extruder screws at several set temperatures and screw rotation speeds. Extrusion data showed that polymer rheology had a significant effect on the thermal efficiency on the extrusion process. In particular, melt viscosity was found to have a significant effect on specific energy consumption and thermal homogeneity of the melt. Extruder screw geometry, set extrusion temperature and screw rotation speed were also found to have a direct effect on energy consumption and melt consistency. Single flighted extruder screws exhibited poorer temperature homogeneity and larger fluctuations than a barrier flighted screw with a spiral mixer. These results highlighted the importance of careful selection of processing conditions and extruder screw geometry on melt homogeneity and process efficiency. Extruder scale was found to have a significant influence on thermal characteristics due to changes in surface area of the screw, barrel and heaters which consequently affect the effectiveness of the melting process and extrusion process energy demand. In this thesis, the thermal and energy characteristics of two single screw extruders were compared to examine the effect of extruder scale and processing conditions on measured melt temperature and energy consumption. Extrusion thermal dynamics were shown to be highly dependent upon extruder scale whilst specific energy consumption compared more favourably, enabling prediction of a process window from lab to industrial scale within which energy efficiency can be optimised. Overall, this detailed experimental study has helped to improve understanding of the single screw extrusion process, in terms of thermal stability and energy consumption. It is hoped that the findings will allow those working in this field to make more informed decisions regarding set conditions, screw geometry and extruder scale, in order to improve the efficiency of the extrusion process.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available
Keywords: Polymer extrusion ; Infrared thermometry ; Rheology ; Scale up ; Melt temperature measurement ; Extruder screw geometry ; Energy efficiency ; Thermocouple