Friday, February 3, 2023

University works with global materials company to develop longer-lasting water pipes

A new way to lighter, stronger plastic water pipes has been pioneered by the University of Bradford and global materials company SABIC.

The new pipes outperform standard plastic plumbing pipes in pressure tests, are much cheaper to transport and last longer, and will therefore be more sustainable.

It’s the process used to make the pipes that makes them stronger, by changing the physical makeup of the plastic involved.

SABIC aims to capture 20 percent of the market with the new ‘biaxially oriented’ polyethylene and polypropylene pressure pipes.

Dr Fin Caton-Rose, who runs the research laboratory in the university’s globally-recognised Polymer IRC, said: “These pipes are lighter and much stronger than traditional polyolefin pipes. They are easy to make, easy to transport and they last longer, which means they are better for the environment.”

Dr Ajay Taraiya from SABIC said: “Our collaboration with the University of Bradford is crucial in terms of the scientific-based research they are able to conduct, in order to accelerate solutions for commercial products.

“We selected the University of Bradford based on our needs and their expertise. Scientists there have a wealth of knowledge in the solid-phase deformation of polymers, in addition to world-class research facilities, not to mention globally recognized academics and a successful track record of industrial collaboration.”

Professor Phil Coates, who invented the die-drawing process at the heart of the new pipes, said: “This is an exemplary collaboration between a major global company with its significant research and development, plus commercial capabilities and a world-class polymer research laboratory. It is genuinely a win-win collaboration and serves as an example of how the kind of research universities do can have a direct impact on helping industry innovate.”

Over the last few years, SABIC and the University of Bradford have been involved in a successful collaboration to develop the process of biaxial stretching of polyolefin pipes. This has involved linking the material design to the structure and has led to the development of high performance pressure pipes.

These results are being applied to the development of a commercial scale pilot line by Tecnomatic in Italy and Aquatherm in Germany, both in collaboration with SABIC.

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