Adhesive Composition

University of Limerick Background
Thermoset adhesives offer many advantages over mechanical fastening including very high strength, gap-filling ability and resistance to humidity, heat and corrosion. Thermoset adhesives also have the advantage over mechanical fastening (e.g. welding, riveting) in terms of weight reduction, joint stress distribution, efficiency and convenience of use. Thermoset adhesives such as epoxy resins are used across a range of industries, and have many applications including automotive, electrical and electronics, construction, composites and wind turbines.
One of the main disadvantages to the use of these adhesives is the difficulties associated with disassembling adhered structures without causing damage to the bonded structure materials. This creates difficulties where disassembly is necessary for inspection, repair, replacement of component parts, or effective recycling and reuse. Overcoming this difficulty has positive implications for sustainable use of materials, the circular economy and achieving UN Sustainability Goals.
Technology Overview
University of Limerick researchers have created a modified thermoset adhesive that can be effectively degraded by dielectric heating. Dielectric heating is a process by which radio frequency microwave energy can heat a non/low electric conductive (dielectric) material. Destruction of the adhesive bond does not damage the bonded materials (for plastic and composite materials tested). Dielectic absorption materials are distributed in the adhesive and act as localised ‘hotspots’ to absorb and conduct heat into the surrounding adhesive causing it to rapidly degrade (30 seconds – 3 mins). The modified adhesive retains the bonding advantages demonstrated by traditional thermoset (epoxy) resins but their bonding is reversible.
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Further Details:
The primary advantage of the reversible thermoset adhesive is the ability to degrade the adhesive without damaging the bonded components. This allows for repair, replacement or parts, and effective disassembly of products and materials for recycling and repurposing/reuse. Use of a reversible adhesive would improve recycling efficiency as less material would be destroyed in the process. This is particularly relevant to the creation of a circular economy.
The adhesive can be degraded remotely from an operator which provides further advantages in terms of disassembly of large scale and high volume products such as electronic components and some advanced transport structures utilising plastic and/or composite components.
It has been observed that the adhesives are in fact tougher and stronger as a result of the nano dielectric components dispersed in the epoxy. Hence, the reversible element also enhances the joint performance under normal operating conditions.
Bonding applications in aerospace, automotive, wind turbine industries, composites and electronics.
University of Limerick is seeking to license this opportunity, or to engage with a commercial or development partner to further the technology.

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