Tannic Acid: A Key To Reducing Environmental Impacts of Epoxy
Epoxy thermosets have revolutionized the coating, adhesive, and composite industries but the chemicals from which they are synthesized have significant effects on the environment and human health not only pre-cure but also after crosslinking has occurred. Many flame retardants (FR), hardeners, and other additives used in epoxy thermosets are synthesized from petroleum-based monomers leading to significant environmental impacts at the industrial scale. Various bio-based modifiers have been developed to circumvent these environmental concerns; however, dispersing biologically-based molecules into the system without tradeoffs with other properties, especially mechanical properties and the glass transition temperature, has proven challenging. Tannic acid (TA) is a bio-based high molecular weight organic (HMWO), aromatic molecule. Although biologically sourced, TA is a pollutant in industrial wastewater streams, and there is desire to find applications in which to downcycle this molecule after extraction from these streams. The unique properties that make TA applicable in a variety of applications including leather tanning, burn wound treatment, and water purification are desirable in epoxy thermosets. In this study, we propose TA as an alternative additive for epoxy. We will uncover the usefulness of TA as an epoxy hardener and as a FR additive. Previous work uncovered that TA could be dispersed in epoxy with weights up to 37 wt%, the highest loading level achieved in literature for this molecule. Using TA as an epoxy hardener resulted in materials that had glass transition temperatures at and above 200⁰C. Using TA as a FR additive resulted in intumescent-behavior previously unseen with TA in epoxy. Chemical functionalization with acetic anhydride further enhanced the behavior resulting in a reduction of the peak heat release rate of the materials by 80%. Ongoing research in the use of solvent, metal ion complexation, and water-borne epoxy containing TA will additionally be explored. The result of this work indicated that TA showed significant promise as a biologically-based functional additive as a flame retardant and epoxy hardener and could reduce environmental impact of many currently available products.