This Is AuburnElectronic Theses and Dissertations

The Auburn Engineering Technical Assistance Program Investigation of Polyvinyl Alcohol Film Developments Pertaining to Radioactive Particle Decontamination and Industrial Waste Minimization




Mole, Tracey

Type of Degree



Chemical Engineering


Formula optimization of new products and improvement of existing merchandise is practiced in many different industries including paints and dyes, polymers and plastics, foods, personal care, detergents, pharmaceuticals and specialty chemical development. Current trends in the engineering design community have moved towards the development of quantitative integrated solution strategies for simultaneous consideration of multiple product characteristics. The optimization variables are most often determined by qualitative attributes, stochastic variables, visual observations and/or design experience. The effectiveness of these approaches is limited by available data, bias towards specific solutions and experimental error and reproducibility. Model insight is required for development of fast, reliable and systematic screening methods capable of identifying optimal formulations and reducing the number of subsequent laboratory experimentations. In this work, an effective and systematic model is devised to synthesize the optimal formulation for an explicit engineering application in the nuclear industry, i.e. radioactive decontamination and waste reduction. Identification of an optimal formulation that is suitable for the desired system requires integration of all the interlacing behaviors of the product constituents. This work is unique not only in product design, but also in these design techniques. The common practice of new product development is to design the optimized product for a particular industrial niche and then subsequent research for the production process is conducted, developed and optimized separately from the product formulation. In this proposed optimization design technique, the development process, disposal technique and product formulation is optimized simultaneously to improve production profit, product behavior and disposal emissions. This --Y΄cradle to grave‘ optimization approach allowed a complex product formulation development process to be drastically simplified. The utilization of these modeling techniques took an industrial idea to full scale testing and production in under 18 months by reducing the number of subsequent laboratory trials required to optimize the formula, production and waste treatment aspects of the product simultaneously. This particular development material involves the use of a polymer matrix that is applied to surfaces as part of a decontamination system. The polymer coating serves to initially ΄fix‘ the contaminants in place for detection and ultimate elimination. Upon mechanical entrapment and removal, the polymer coating containing the radioactive isotopes can be dissolved in a solvent processor, where separation of the radioactive metallic particles can take place. Ultimately, only the collection of divided solids should be disposed of as nuclear waste. This creates an attractive alternative to direct land filling or incineration. This philosophy also provides waste generators a way to significantly reduce waste and associated costs, and help meet regulatory, safety and environmental requirements. In order for the polymeric film exhibit the desired performance, a combination of discrete constraints must be fulfilled. These interacting characteristics include the choice of polymer used for construction, drying time, storage constraints, decontamination ability, removal behavior, application process, coating strength and dissolvability processes. Identification of an optimized formulation that is suitable for this entire decontamination system requires integration of all the interlacing characteristics of the coating composition that affect the film behavior. A novel systematic method for developing quantitative values for theses qualitative characteristics is being developed in order to simultaneously optimize the design formulation subject to the discrete product specifications. This synthesis procedure encompasses intrinsic ch