Technology (UPN: 23)

Technology Making adhesives surfaces reversible
Organisation Type Company
Organisation Region European Union
Overview Thermo-expandable microspheres (TEMs), which consist of an outer shell of copolymer thermoplastic resin encapsulating a liquid hydrocarbon, when the heat trigger is applied at command the microspheres expand to over 100 times their volume, acting as a pressure activator to cleanly break the bond at the interface, and the cohesive structure. A key part of the patented technology is the functionalization of the TEMs surfaces, e.i. a conducting material is applied onto the polymeric shells of the microspheres. This additional layer enables quicker ways to get the heat to the TEM surface without damaging the material itself.

If you have parts which are bonded and need to be repaired or replaced, or particularly for the disassembly of expensive parts/materials, allowing the reuse of the raw materials, then the proposed technology has a huge potential. The TEMs are placed on the surface in a primer/cleaner trapping the TEM in their dormant state, till the need to activate for debonding.

Key features of the proposed technology are the following:

  • The TEM is low cost (around 20 Euros a Kilo);
  • Will stay dormant in an adhesive;
  • It is micro in size 6 to 40 micron;
  • Has many trigger energy options (Micro-waves, Infra-red, laser, electro-induction, ovens etc.);
  • The pressure expansion is  2/3 around 80+%;
  • The TEM can be triggered by any energy/heat at the designed temperature;
  • Functionalized TEMs can reduce the trigger time by 50% and give extra shell protection to the microspheres.
  • Physical, not chemical reaction. Therefore, it cannot re-stick.
  • The best temperature range is 161-164°C without degradation of PU.
  • Ideal composition is 7wt % of microspheres within the primer layer.
  • Microspheres can be applied by adding to the adhesive, mixing with any cleaner or primer, or directly applied at the interface between two layers.
  • In all instances the process is fast, totally safe and virtually silent, with both the microspheres and the flakes of cottonwool-like residue left after.
  • The residue is easily and quickly removed. In instances such as the changing of a damaged windscreen, removal by the proposed method as opposed to conventional methods represents a massive saving in time and clean-up costs. It also eliminates the risk of breakage which could cause problems with windscreens still under manufacturer's warranty.
  • A lot of testing and science has been done to understand, the size, mix, of the TEM.
  • This has led to functionalize the TEM (Microspheres) surface which has given more opportunities for developing the technology.
  • As some industries have preferences to the energy triggers: e.g. Automotive for IR and Aero space for electro-induction.

The proposed technology has been demonstrated to work for the disassembly of parts/materials from different surfaces such as glass, aluminum, metals, composites, paper, golf heads etc…

Opportunities: e.g. Maintenance and dismantling operations (e.g. automotive industry for end of vehicle life dismantling, to remove car windscreens), and many other such as shoes, wall paper, floor tiles etc.

Possible Applications:

Glazing removal from vehicles, Boats maintenance and dismantling operations, Trains maintenance and dismantling operations, Aeroplanes maintenance and dismantling operations

Competitive Advantage

No technology is in the market which covers most adhesives. The low cost of placing microspheres in at manufacturing is cents. The trigger energy need to activate the system is in most cases purchased by others. e.g. If the glazing bonded in a vehicle needs replacing then the energy need to trigger the system would be purchased by the repairer or garage. So low cost to the manufacture, but has the benefits to the vehicle customer, insurers, and at the end of life (ELV).

Development Stage:

Commercially available

Intellectual Property:

Worldwide patent protection

Innovator A small European company run by one of the founders (scientific expert). Company /patents currently for sale.