Fiberglass goes green: Developing phosphate glass for use in biodegradable composites

Christina Lee Arendt, University of Texas at El Paso


Composite materials, such as the glass fiber reinforced polyester thermosets known as “fiberglass,” are used in many applications. However, recycling processes for these materials are inefficient and not widely available. Specially engineered degradable polymers offer an opportunity to redesign these composites. Additionally, the composite could be tailored to be multi-use, such that upon degradation, the resulting products could be used as part of a zeoponic substrate (artificial soil) for growing plants. Such a material would be beneficial for long-duration space missions, terraforming, or in other agricultural applications. The research presented in this dissertation focuses on developing phosphate glass for use as the fiber reinforcement for such a composite. Due to the under-utilization of phosphate systems, there is a lack of thermodynamic data on these systems. The modified associate species method of phase diagram calculation was used in an attempt to gain more information about the desired system, as it is a good predictor of the phase relations in oxide melts, slags, and glasses and requires less data than other methods. Further research into the thermodynamic properties of phosphates is still needed to develop accurate phase diagrams and melting temperatures for this system. Seventeen glass formulations were developed and melted. Six of these formulations were chosen for dissolution testing. Of these six, Glass 17 was chosen for intensive testing and characterization. This glass was tested in water, hydrochloric acid solutions, and citric acid solutions. The weight loss was measured and ICP-OES was performed on the leachate solution. Scanning electron microscopy (SEM) and X-ray diffraction were performed on the tested specimens. Shrinking-core models were fit to the dissolution data. Fibers were drawn from the glass and characterized using SEM. The data shows that this glass is not dissolving congruently, as is expected of phosphate glasses. Instead, selective leaching is occurring, leading to the development of a non-protective surface layer during dissolution.

Subject Area

Materials science

Recommended Citation

Arendt, Christina Lee, "Fiberglass goes green: Developing phosphate glass for use in biodegradable composites" (2016). ETD Collection for University of Texas, El Paso. AAI10118181.