CEA-Liten is a major European research institute and a driving force behind the development of the sustainable energy technologies of the future. The institute is spearheading the EU’s efforts to limit dependency on fossil fuels and reduce greenhouse gas emissions in three key areas: renewable energy, energy efficiency/storage and development of materials.

The only European research institute to span the entire value chain from the development of materials to pre-industrialization, CEA-Liten’s unique combination of human and technological resources helps its industrial partners achieve competitive advantage through the development of cutting-edge renewable energy, energy efficiency and novel material technology.

The institute builds long-term relationships with its industrial partners that range in size from SMEs to multinationals, in order to develop a wide range of technologies that include the development of new and advanced materials, components as well as the optimization/development of existing or new industrial processes. This privileged relationship with Industry sees us put in place over 400 research contracts a year.

In order to reach these objectives, the institute is able to draw on the strength of 12 purpose-built technology platforms as well as over 1000 scientists, technicians and support staff. The combination of this enviable array of equipment (combined annual budget of 140M€) and the scientific expertise of CEA-Liten’s scientific teams results in a powerful R&D tool that can help overcome complex technological hurdles and help build the products, components and industrial processes of the future.

In the MERLIN project, CEA has the leadership of task 3.2, thus the goal of developing processes to recover polyethylene (PE) from rigid and flexible food packaging delamination processes and of PET from flexible packaging delamination processes.

CEA study different approaches to reuse the fractions recovered of recycled PET and recycled PE. Due to the poor properties of the POs and PET recovered from delamination processes, the first route consists of adding specific additives such as antioxidants, chain extenders, impact modifiers or fillers to them by twin-screw extrusion process (and reactive extrusion). Depending on the recovered polymer properties, in order to increase their stability and mechanical properties and to cater for a wide range of flexible and rigid packaging applications.

The selection of fillers will be conducted according to their morphology, processability and matrix affinity. Due to the polarity difference between the rPE (non-polar) and the filler (polar), which is linked to their low affinity, a specific route such as maleic anhydride grafting (route 2) and/or sizing will be developed.

The second route consists of chemically modifying the PE recovered from multi-layer packaging structures in order to improve rPET/rPE multi-layer adhesion and affinity. The aim is to use more environmentally friendly adhesives and prevent extra processes such as filler sizing. MAg will be performed by reactive extrusion. The influence of the MAg rate on surface tension and on PET affinity will be studied. In addition, CEA will perform characterization tests on the recycled polymers (thermal properties as TGA and DSC, Rheological behaviour, intrinsic viscosity, mechanical properties will be tested for tensile strength (ISO 527). Specimens in the shape of film will be produced by extrusion. To evaluate the maleic anhydride grafting (MAg), FTIR will be used, and the surface tension modification will be characterized by the drop angle test. On the other hand, to evaluate the modification of the molar mass of the recycled polymers, gel permeation chromatography (GPC) will be carried out.

The most promising formulations of flexible and rigid recycled packaging (PE and PET) will be scaled up and produced in sufficient quantities (approximately 30-35 kg of each fraction) to be sent to partners for the development of the different packaging demonstrators.

CEA wishes to publish its work in a journal in the field of polymers and recycling as Advances in Materials Science and Engineering, International Journal of Polymer Science, Composites Science and Technology.