Degree Type


Date of Award


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy


Agricultural and Biosystems Engineering


Agricultural and Biosystems Engineering

First Advisor

Kurt Rosentrater


With increasing environmental concerns of fossil fuel, the demand for renewable materials has increased in recent years. One of the most common bio-based feedstock is glycerol, which is mainly generated as a co-product in the biodiesel plant. Glycerol is an extremely versatile compound because of its chemical characteristics, therefore, it is used in synthesizing many molecules, such as polymers and adhesives.

In this project, adhesives were developed from a reversible addition-fragmentation chain-transfer (RAFT) polymerization process; in addition, glycerol was used as the primary feedstock. Due to its novelty, the environmental performance and the economics of adhesive made from the RAFT polymerization process has not been evaluated before. Therefore, the main objective of this dissertation was to explore the environmental impact of this kind of adhesive by life cycle assessment (LCA) method and economic feasibility of this kind of adhesive by techno-economic analysis (TEA). Two kinds of adhesives were produced from the RAFT polymerization process in this dissertation: structural adhesives, and non-structural adhesives. In this study, pressure sensitive adhesive (PSA) was chosen to represent the non-structural adhesive type. Except for these two kinds of adhesives, traditional formaldehyde-based adhesives were also investigated in this project to help us getting an overview of the current adhesive market.

According to the results from life cycle assessment (LCA), we found that for both structural adhesives and non-structural adhesives produced from the RAFT polymerization process, if we adopted biomaterials during the production process, less evidence of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions were observed in bio-based adhesives than petro-based ones. When comparing structural adhesives from the RAFT polymerization process with traditional urea formaldehyde adhesives (UF adhesive), which can also be used as structural adhesives, LCA results indicated that even though less global warming air was emitted from UF adhesives, their impacts to human health were much higher than that from structural adhesives produced from the RAFT polymerization process.

The results of techno-economic analysis (TEA) showed that the lowest unit production cost of bio-based structural adhesive was $2.45 /kg and $2.76 /kg for bio-based PSA with the plant scale of 40 t/d. Comparing bio-based structural adhesives with traditional UF adhesives, the unit production cost of structural adhesives from the RAFT polymerization process was higher, but the profit from structural adhesives was higher than traditional UF adhesives.

This dissertation presented the environmental impact and economic feasibility of the novel adhesives from the RAFT polymerization process. The results from this study can provide policy makers and industries with valuable environmental and economic information necessary to produce a more sustainable adhesive.

Copyright Owner

Minliang Yang



File Format


File Size

221 pages