SPE WEBINAR: A Tiered Approach for Studying Polymers in the Marine Environment – Criteria, Best Practices and Test Methods

Real-Time Process Optimization with In-Mold Sensors and Machine Learning


A Tiered Approach for Studying Polymers in the Marine Environment – Criteria, Best Practices and Test Methods

Part of the Biodegradation Studies and Experiments for Materials in the Marine Environment Series

Wednesday, June 21, 2023 11:00 AM-12:00 PM EDT

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Marine debris continues to be an immense problem, thus eliciting the global emphasis on pollution prevention. Biodegradable polymers have historically been studied as a solution to reduce solid waste for the military. However, biodegradation is a challenge for most materials in the marine environment. A tiered approach to evaluate polymers in the marine environment will be reviewed. The Tier 1 method utilized an optimized environment, sample preparation and conditions to evaluate biodegradation by respirometry. A Tier 2 test used weight loss as a function of time to evaluate actual items in the marine environment, and a Tier 3 test had items positioned in the deep sea for weight loss studies. Toxicity as well as disintegration were also studied for all samples that underwent biodegradation testing. Overall, this tier 1 approach was a valuable screening method for polymers while tier 2 and 3 were real-life test methods for determining the fate of polymers in the marine environment. Sample data will be displayed to show the types of materials that biodegrade in the marine environment.

About the Speaker

Jo Ann Ratto, Ph.D.
Research Materials Engineer (retired)
U.S. Army Combat Capabilities Development Command

Dr. Jo Ann Ratto is a retired Research Materials Engineer from the U.S. Army Combat Capabilities Development Command, Natick, MA where she led research, collaborations and technical teams on the execution of polymer research for the last 34 years. She co-managed an ASTM certified biodegradation laboratory at the Army with Dr. Chris Thellen for many years. She obtained her master’s and doctorate degree at the University of MA Lowell in the Plastics Engineering Department where she is currently an adjunct faculty. She obtained her Bachelor of Arts from College of the Holy Cross in Chemistry. Her passion has always been biodegradable polymers especially studying their fate in the marine environment and educating future generations.

Chris Thellen, Ph.D.
Product Development Engineer
Endurans™ Solar (Worthen Industries)

Dr. Chris Thellen obtained his PhD in Plastics Engineering from the University of MA Lowell and is very active in the SPE and the BioEnvironmental Polymer Society. At the U.S. Army Combat Capabilities Development Command, Natick MA he led a team focused on advancing multilayer film technologies and the utilization of nanocomposite materials. He also co-managed the biodegradation laboratory studying polymers in the marine environment. Currently, at Endurans™ Solar (Worthen Industries), he leads development and production of various photovoltaic film and sheets. Chris’s extensive experience, expertise, and commitment to plastics engineering have positioned him as a driving force in the development of eco-safe technologies.

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