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Rubber Technology Research Centre (RTEC)

Website : www.sc.mahidol.ac.th/rtec

Centre for Rubber Research and Technology (CRRT) is a centre of excellence (CoE) of the Faculty of Science, Mahidol University, devoted to research and development of natural rubber (NR).

MISSION

CRRT was established with the mission to carry out high quality research and development work on rubbers, in particular that of natural rubber (NR), in order to support the development of the Thai rubber Industry.
Presently, Thailand is the world’s number one producer and exporter of NR and the world’s number nine manufacturer of rubber products. The income from NR for the country totals more than 350,000 million baht each year.
To maintain and strengthen the competitiveness of the Thai rubber industry, research and development (R&D) are imperative. CRRT proposes to play a leading role in R&D of NR, in order to achieve the above objective for the country.

GOALS

The goals of CRRT are,
1. To help develop next-generation NR and related technologies which will consolidate the position of Thailand as the world’s leader in NR production.
2. To produce scientific knowledge and novel technologies, and integrate them with engineering practice in order to achieve significant work according to the needs of the Thai rubber industry.
3. To become an internationally recognised research centre for natural rubber.


RESEARCH TEAM

The research team of CRRT comprises 6 researchers from the Department of Chemistry, Faculty of Science, 3 researchers from the Institute of Science and Technology for Research and Development and 3 researchers from the National Metal and Materials Technology Center (MTEC).


MAHIDOL UNIVERSITY


1. Dr. Krisda Suchiva (Head)
2. Dr. Chakrit Sirisingha
3. Dr. Chudej Deeprasertkul
4. Dr. Jitladda Sakdapipanich
5. Dr. Nittaya Rattanasom
6. Professor Pramuan Tangboriboonrat
7. Dr. Pranee Phinyocheep
8. Dr. Sombat Thanawan
9. Dr. Supa Wirasate

[ ... more information about CRRT Research Team ... ]


MTEC

1. Mrs. Chaveewan Kongkaew
2. Dr. Pongdhon Sae-Oui
3. Dr. Surapich Loykulnant


RESEARCH AREAS

Research at CRRT aims at producing new or improved knowledge of NR, which will lead to innovation in its production, properties, commercial grades and rubber products obtained from NR. Ongoing research
programmes are :

1. Structures and Properties of Natural Rubber
2. Novel Technologies for Modifications of Natural Rubber
3. Compounding, Processing, Structures and Properties of Natural Rubber
4. Rubber Blends and Composites
5. Rubber Nanotechnology
6. Science and Engineering of Natural Rubber Surface

 

 

1. Structures and Properties of Natural Rubber


Natural rubber (NR) possesses excellent mechanical properties, including strength and elasticity, which are unmatched by synthetic rubbers. Therefore, NR is often a material of choice for manufacturing of engineering products such as tyres, bearings for bridges and buildings, anti-vibration mountings, dock-fenders and rubber weirs. However, raw NR is a tough and highly elastic material, making it difficult to process compared with synthetic rubbers. Furthermore, NR exhibits variation in properties from batch to batch. These are major disadvantages of NR which need to be corrected in order to maintain its competitiveness with synthetic rubbers.

The objective of this research programme is to seek understanding of the origins of the basic properties of NR, including storage-hardening, high tack, high green strength, high viscosity and elasticity and variations in vulcanisation and processing properties. The molecular and other physical structures of solid NR are studied in order to explain its properties. The technology for improving the poor properties of NR will then be developed.


2. Novel Technologies for Modifications of Natural Rubber


Natural rubber (NR) can be modified, chemically or physically, in order to improve or diversify its properties. The objectives would be to further expand the applications and value-creation of this already valuable material. Past successful efforts along this direction are crosslinking, epoxidation, maleinisation, grafting and depolymerisation, for chemical modifications, to produce vulcanised NR (stronger and more elastic NR), epoxidised NR (oil-resistant and reduced gas-permeability NR), maleinised NR (intermediate compound for further modifications of NR), graft-copolymers of NR (eg. hard NR and NR adhesives) and liquid NR (processing aid) respectively. For physical modifications, the usual technology of blending with synthetic rubbers (SR) has been employed.

Although significant and rather satisfactory results have been achieved with the past methods of modifying NR, there are still rooms for improvement. For examples, functionalisation or grafting of NR still could not be well-controlled or the products can be questioned about their safety due to residual chemicals that are used to modify NR. This research programme attempts to introduce novel technologies for modifications of NR which can correct or, at least, alleviate the above remaining problems. Thus, new reactions such as living radical reaction has been employed in order to achieve better control of grafting of other polymers onto NR molecules. The other new technology which, hopefully, will soon be introduced is the clean vulcanisation technology of NR latex using electron beam. For modifications of NR by blending with SR, a new reactive blending technology has been applied which will be further developed by designing and constructing new twin-screw extruders for effecting mixings of NR and SR.


3. Compounding, Processing, Structures and Properties of Rubber Vulcanisates


The properties of rubber vulcanisates depend on several factors including the ability to find the right chemicals to add to the rubber (rubber compounding) , how well the rubbers and the chemicals are mixed and the conditions (temperature and time) which the rubber compounds are vulcanised. Compounding and processing conditions, in turn, affect the network structures of the vulcanised rubber which have direct influences on the properties of the rubber vulcanisates. This research programme seeks knowledge of all of the above factors which control the performance of the rubber products so that the necessary technologies could be developed and disseminated to the Thai rubber industry.


4. Rubber Blends and Composites


Use of a single rubber is rarely adequate for manufacturing of rubber products. This is because rubbers are usually employed in engineering applications which require demanding properties such as high strength, high modulus, high damping properties or superior wear, often at elevated temperatures or are in contact with oils. Therefore, uses of two or more rubbers (rubber blends) or reinforcement of rubbers with other materials such as carbon black, silica, fibres and textiles or metals (rubber composites) are necessary in the manufacturing of rubber products.

However, the uses of rubber blends or rubber composites are not straight forward. There are a number of problems associated with their uses. For examples, with rubber blends, there are problems of differential vulcanisation rates between the two (or more) rubbers involved, or the problem of unbalanced distribution of rubber chemicals or fillers in different rubber phases. Both problems can give detrimental effects on the properties of the rubber blends attained. For rubber composites, adhesions between the rubbers and other materials are of paramount important in determining their properties. Type and form of the materials used and their arrangement within the rubber also provide many possibilities for designing the properties of the rubber composites.

This research programme aims at developing integral knowledge of the factors that determine the properties of rubber blends or rubber composite systems of interests and employ them to develop new rubber products or to improve the quality of existing products.


5. Rubber Nanotechnology


Nanotechnology can provide unexplored possibility for developing new rubber products or processes.

Nanocomposites of rubbers and clays are examples of new materials derived from the application of nanotechnology to rubbers. Rubber/clay nanocomposites exhibit reduced gas permeability, increased modulus and improved flame-retardancy. Work on nanoparticles has been carried out in this research programme to encapsulate antiseptic and embedded them in rubber gloves to produce novel protective gloves. Layer- by- layer assembled nanoparticles has also been developed as a novel mean for modification of rubber surfaces, in order to achieve desired surface properties such as hydrophobic surface or non-stick surface.


6. Science and Engineering of Natural Rubber Surfaces


Study of surface of NR is important for many of its applications. Surface properties such as adhesion, tack, friction and wear are relevant to product manufacturing processes and performances of products from NR. For friction and wear which are important properties for such rubber products as tyres, shoe soles, rice-husk rollers, belts and gloves, little study has been made on the subject. As a result, full understanding of these phenomena is still lacking, for example, the roles of surface structures and properties on friction and wear, the relationship between nanoscale and macroscale structures and properties. A research programme will soon be commenced on this subject.

Surface modification is a convenient method for modifying properties of NR surface. For example, chlorination of NR surface has been carried out in order to improve its adhesion with acrylonitrile-butadiene rubber (NBR). Modification of NR surface by covering it with nanoparticles has already mentioned which can impart the desired surface property depending on the type of the nanoparticles used. Surface modification can also provide an economical way for preparing rubber product having required property without having to modify the bulk of the materials. Work along these lines are being pursued in this research programme.



RESEARCH OUTPUT

Publications

International Publications in 2012: 12 papers
International Publications in 2011: 8 papers
International Publications in 2010: 21 papers
International Publications in 2009: 7 papers
International Publications in 2008: 15 papers
International Publications in 2007: 16 papers
International Publications in 2006: 13 papers
International Publications in 2005: 23 papers
International Publications in 2004: 16 papers
International Publications in 2003: 17 papers

[ ... see the whole list of publications ... ]


Patents: 13 patents



Research and Development Centre for Thai Rubber Industry (RDCTRI)


Closely associated with CRRT is RDCTRI. RDCTRI is the technical centre which provides technical support to the Thai rubber product manufacturing industry. RDCTRI is operated by the rubber team of CRRT plus its own full time staff. The activities of RDCTRI include contract research, consultancy, analysis and testing services, manpower training and dissemination of knowledge and technology.

For more information, please consult the Centre's website: http://www.rubbercenter.org

CONTACT ADDRESS :

Center for Rubber Research and Technology (CRRT)
Faculty of Science Building 3,
Mahidol University, Salaya
Nakhon Pathom 73170
Tel: +66 2441 9816-20 ext. 1115 Fax: +66 2441-0511
Website : http://www.rubbercenter.org