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This activity initiated by Hamid Kaddami (Cadi Ayyad Univ. of Marrakesh, Morocco) and Zoubeida Ounaies (Penn State University) focusing on polymer nanocomposite processing and characterization, has been enhanced this past year. Hamid Kaddami and his group strengthened the collaboration with the IIMEC by working with Raihane Mustapha (Cadi Ayyad University), Moez Chafra, and Sami El-Borgi (EPT – Tunisia).

During the past year, the accomplishments were: 

  • The previous work made on composites materials based on cellulose nanofibers (cellulose nanocristals and microfibrillated cellulose) and various polymers to study the effect of cellulose nanofibers orientation under electric field and the nature of physical interaction between polymer matrices and the nanofibers on the physical properties of the nanocomposites was continued. In this work two PhD students were involved: Amal Kadimi from Morocco and Sanjay Kalidindy from USA. Amal Kadimi is has been at Penn State University for five months (from February to June).

  • In collaboration with Prof. Chafra, Prof El-Borgi and Prof Ounaies, we are working on the development of natural fiber based composites materials for wind blade applications. This collaboration is also benefiting from financial support in the framework of Morocco –Tunisia collaborative program.

  • During February 27 and 28, 2012 in Marrakech, a workshop was organized with collaboration between US-Morocco-Tunisia. This workshop on Developing Entrepreneurship and Innovation Skills in Engineers focused on: 1) introduction to entrepreneurship concepts and skills; 2) Hands-on activities on incorporating entrepreneurship and innovation in teaching methods; 3) building efficient communication skills and marketing strategies which are necessary for entrepreneurship; and 4) learning strategies to reach out and interact with the private sector with regard to entrepreneurship and engineering innovation. The participants consisted of engineering students from Morocco and Tunisia, Tunisian and Moroccan early career faculty, and instructors/experts (US, Morocco and Tunisia). This workshop was organized as part of the US-Tunisia-Morocco Partnership for the Promotion of Technology Innovation and Commercialization Strategies in Engineering Research and Education grant effort, funded by the Bureau of Oceans and International Environmental and Scientific Affairs’ (OES), US Department of State. Specifically, the program was part of the Morocco-Tunisia Technology Commercialization Program. Penn State University led the effort in collaboration with the Tunisian American Young Professionals (TAYP), the Ecole Poletychnique de Tunisia (EPT) and Cadi Ayyad University.

  • February 22-24, 2012, an international conference was organized in Marrakech called ICBMC12 (The International Conference on Bio-based Materials and Composites) with the partnership of IIMEC. More than 135 participants from 18 countries attended the conference. Dr. Kaddami was the conference chairman. The IIMEC co-sponsored the conference which allowed organizers to invite research experts from the U.S. to give keynote addresses. See APPENDIX O for web site information.

  • Overall the US-Morocco collaboration had resulted in the orientation of the cellulose nanofibers (cellulose nanocristals) enabled to improve the mechanical properties of the composite materials even when very small fraction of cellulose nanocristals is used as reinforcing agent. The reinforcement is much higher compared to nanocomposites where the nanofillers are randomly dispersed. These results will be published soon. Amal Kadimi and Sanjay Kalidindy are working on the orientation of microfibrillated celluloseunder electrical field to compare with cellulose nanocristals. Lastly, some copolymers with controlled structures are being used as matrices for the nanocomposites materials. These copolymers were synthetized in collaboration with Prof. Raihane Mustapha from Cadi Ayyad University.

The plans for 2012 are:

  • The research work on the orientation of microfibrillated cellulose and nanocomposites with copolymers will be continued next year. This research work is a part of the PhD thesis of Amal Kadimi who is supervised conjointly by Prof Kaddami, Prof Raihane and Prof. Ounaeis.

  • The collaborative research work between Prof. Kaddami and Prof. Moez Chafra on the composite will be continued in the framework of the PhD of Mr. Bouajila from EPT-Tunisia.

  • In July 2012 we will participate to the organization of the second workshop US-Morocco-Tunisia on Developing Entrepreneurship and Innovation Skills in Engineers. This work shop will be held in Monastir (Tunisia).

  • The accomplishments of this collaboration are also led by Dr. Zoubeida Ounaies’ research on Electric field-manipulation of nanoreinforcements between her and Dr. Hamid Kaddami. Two PhD students have been involved as well in this project: Sanjay Kalidindi (Texas A&M University, advised by Ounaies) and Amal Kadimi (female graduate student, Cadi Ayyad University, advised by Kaddami and co-advised by Ounaies).  The goal of the project is to investigate the use of naturally available cellulose to fabricate cellulose whiskers (CWs)-based polymer nanocomposites for dielectric and mechanical reinforcement. The objectives are two-fold: 1) to develop a methodology for dispersing CWs in organic solvent to expand the scope of polymer matrices beyond water-soluble ones, and 2) to utilize AC electric field-driven manipulation of CWs in polymer solutions to process aligned nanocomposites. The following research accomplishments have been completed:

  • Developed a processing method for cellulose whiskers dispersion in organic solvents

  • Characterized and relate results to state of dispersion

  • Developed a methodology that is amenable to composite processing with aligned cellulose

  • Studied alignment and change in microstructure as a function of electric field magnitude, frequency and duration of electric field

  • Characterized physical properties as a function of alignment parameters

  • Characterized composites parallel and perpendicular to E-field direction

  • Analyzed the mechanism that drives impact on physical properties

  • In addition, Sanjay Kalidindi, the PhD student in this project, successfully defended his dissertation in March 2012 and will be officially graduating May 11, 2012.

  • US - Morocco collaboration on electric field-manipulation of nanoreinforcements: Recently, interest has focused on a new cellulose-based nanoreinforcement, namely Micro Fibrillated Cellulose (MFCs). In the upcoming year, Ounaies and Kaddami will continue to collaborate by co-advising a PhD student, Amal Kadimi, who will focus on developing a processing method for MFCs dispersion; studying alignment and change in microstructure of MFC-based polymer solutions as a function of electric field magnitude, frequency and duration of electric field; and characterizing mechanical and dielectric response of resulting composites.