Penn College Plastics Students Team With Nanofabrication Students

Published 04.28.2010

Student News
Plastics & Polymer Engineering Technology

Pennsylvania College of Technology student Bradley J. Stroup, left, explains the process of twin-screw compounding to a group of Penn State nanofabrication manufacturing technology students as Penn College students produce samples of a polymer-based nanocomposite for the Penn State group.Students in Pennsylvania College of Technology's plastics and polymer engineering technology major and students enrolled in an intense, 18-credit nanofabrication manufacturing technology capstone semester at The Pennsylvania State University joined forces recently on the Penn College campus.

Tasked with researching plastic- or polymer-based nanocomposites, the nanofabrication manufacturing technology students chose to examine the properties of a polypropylene plastic infused with nanoclay particles.

"Nano" refers to "nanometers." A nanometer is 1-billionth of a meter and 1-millionth of a millimeter. A human hair is about 80,000 nanometers wide. Nanotechnology and nanofabrication refer to engineering at the molecular level. Uses for the advanced manufacturing processes and materials range from electronics to medicine. A nanocomposite is a combination of two or more materials, at least one of which is nanoscale in size.

To create the polymer nanocomposite that was needed for their team project, the nanofabrication students turned to Penn College's plastics faculty and facilities, where plastics and polymer engineering technology students used the twin-screw compounding capabilities in the college's Plastics Extrusion Lab to produce samples of polypropylene (a common plastic material) compounded with different levels of a nanoclay additive.

The nanofabrication students returned to the Center for Nanotechnology Education and Utilization at Penn State to use its advanced imaging capabilities to examine the resulting nanocomposite material's characteristics, including how uniformly the clay nanoparticles were distributed throughout the plastic.

They expected, for example, to create photomicrographs using the facility's scanning electron microscope, which can magnify the material 100,000 to 250,000 times.

In return, Penn College students were invited to CNEU to gain experience examining materials using the same nanoscale imaging and testing capabilities.

"The purpose for this pilot joint-learning exchange is to build a cooperative relationship between the Penn State Center for Nanotechnology Education and Utilization and the Penn College plastics program," said John R. Bartolomucci, assistant professor of plastics technology. "The objective is to continuously improve our graduates' capabilities and preparedness to participate in new-growth technologies and career opportunities."

Three Penn College students worked to create the polypropylene- and nanoclay-based composite for the Penn State students: James R. Fanelli, of Glastonbury, Conn.; Zachary L. Poust, of Hughesville; and Bradley J. Stroup, of Mount Pleasant Mills. All three are seniors and are pursuing bachelor of science degrees in plastics and polymer engineering technology.

Fanelli completed the nanofabrication manufacturing technology capstone semester in Summer 2009, applying it toward his bachelor's degree at Penn College. The 18-credit capstone semester at Penn State's CNEU is open to students from all of Penn State's branch campuses and special mission affiliates, as well as students from all of Pennsylvania's community colleges and the 14 Pennsylvania State System of Higher Education universities.

To learn more about the Center for Nanofabrication Education and Utilization, visit online .

To learn more about plastics and polymer engineering technology and other academic programs offered by the School of Industrial and Engineering Technologies at Penn College, call 570-327-4520 or visit on the Web .

For general information about the college, visit online , e-mail or call toll-free 800-367-9222.