Sustainable bio-composites for west coast highways Public Deposited

http://ir.library.oregonstate.edu/concern/graduate_thesis_or_dissertations/7m01bn742

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  • Wildfire prevention operations like forest thinning and forest fuel removal result in large volumes of woody biomass available for utilization. In 2007 alone, the US federal government spent nearly $2 billion to fight forest fires on federal lands. Annually, the USDA Forest Service spends $1 billion to thin young trees and brush to control wildfires. The resulting woody biomass from these operations is a largely unused resource, primarily burned on-site. Increasingly, interest has developed to use this biomass to generate electricity or produce bio-fuels. However volatile petroleum prices suggest that converting this biomass to fuel alone may not be the most economically appropriate solution - alternatives need to be explored. Composite products using bio-particles can create consistent demand for woody biomass. This is expected to offset costs of removal operations and improve the economics of alternatives to burning. Products that can utilize the large volume of biomass waste produced must have a proportionally large potential use of material. Highway systems employ a wide variety of roadside hardware and safety products on roadways and their perimeters. A majority of these products such as traffic signs, road markers, and guardrails are manufactured from nonrenewable materials. A significant portion of wood residue produced could be utilized in various highway related products due to widespread availability of raw material, the diversity of products, and large volume of roadside hardware. This not only can provide beneficial use for waste material, but also will reduce the volume of non-renewable materials in use and provide potential for small-scale business opportunities in rural regions. A conceptual framework for the systematic assessment of replacement or partial substitution of currently used materials with sustainable alternatives containing woody biomass has been developed. This procedure outlines necessary input information, inquiries, practical steps, and decision points necessary to determine if a product or its individual components are suitable for effective material replacement. This procedure is summarized in form of a visual chart. Three highway products are evaluated for biomass-composite material substitution. Manufacturing processes and testing procedures are considered to develop products conforming to Oregon Department of Transportation requirements. To better understand the effects of combining low-grade woody biomass with polymers, wood-plastic composites using various compositions of locally available woody biomass from forest thinning, and urban wood waste have been manufactured. Tensile properties (strength, elastic modulus, and toughness), impact toughness, resistance to UV exposure, and ground contact tests of these small composite specimens have been tested.
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