ACCE Best Paper Award Winners Honored at the Virtual Event Sept. 9–11, 2020

Media Contact:  Teri Chouinard, SPE Auto. Div. Comm. Chair, 248.701.8003,

TROY (DETROIT) MICH.- The organizing committee for the SPE Automotive Composites Conference & Exhibition (ACCE) honored the Best Paper Award Winners for the group’s 20th annual Program at their Virtual Event, Sept. 9 – 11, 2020.  The two authors who received the highest average ratings by conference peer reviewers out of a field of 40 contenders were honored for excellence in technical writing and will receive a plaque to commemorate their achievement.  Ethan Watt, a 4th-year undergraduate Nanocomposites student at the University of Guelph – Bioproducts Discovery and Development Centre ( Guelph, Ontario, Canada) won first place in this year’s ACCE Best Paper Award competition. Sandeep Tamrakar, Research Engineer, at Ford Motor Company (Dearborn, Michigan, USA) was recognized as ACCE Best Paper Award runner up. 
“Influence of Soy Hull Based Biocarbon and Graphene Nanoplatelets on the Performance of Polypropylene,” is the title of Ethan Watt’s award-winning paper.  About this topic, the author states, “Polypropylene (PP) shows wide usage in the automotive industry, owing to its strength, chemical resistance, and processing ease. The movement away from petroleum-dependence has led to research into sustainable fillers to partly replace the PP matrix, with biocarbon (BioC) being of particular interest. However, this filler commonly diminishes mechanical strength, and to address this the compatibilizer maleic anhydride grafted polypropylene (MA-PP), as well as the nanomaterial graphene nanoplatelets (GnPs), were incorporated as a second filler. It was observed that the optimal formulation was PP/17%BioC/3%MA-PP/3%GnP, which led to mechanical and thermal properties beyond that of neat PP. Flexural strength and modulus were raised by around 28 and 59%, respectively, owing to the stiffness of the filler particles and restriction of chain mobility. This restriction in chain mobility had the added benefit of enhancing the heat deflection temperature by 28%, as well as the dimensional stability, as observed through a decrease in the coefficient of linear thermal expansion by around 17% as compared to neat PP. Overall, these biocomposites provide a direction to the improvement of PP properties while simultaneously decreasing its petroleum content, making them ideal for automotive applications.” 

“Water Absorption Behavior of Recycled PP and PA6 Composites Reinforced with Natural Fibers,” is the title of Sandeep Tamrakar’s paper that was recognized as runner-up in the ACCE Best Paper award competition. About this topic, the author states, “The recyclability of natural fiber and glass fiber reinforced polypropylene composites and glass fiber reinforced nylon composites have been studied through injection molding and mechanical grinding. Mechanical properties of virgin and recycled composites were assessed through flexural, tensile, and impact tests. No significant degradation in the mechanical properties of natural fiber composites was observed after subjecting the composites through several rounds of recycling and water absorption at ambient temperature in tap water. However, severe degradation in the mechanical properties was observed for glass fiber composites. For instance, after five cycles of recycling, only 59% of flexural strength and 64% of flexural modulus was retained for glass fiber reinforced nylon composite. This is mainly due to severe attrition in glass fibers caused by recycling as evidenced by studies on fiber length distribution. Water absorption tests conducted at room temperature and subsequent environmental conditionings such as freeze-thaw cycling and extended freeze cycling only affected nylon composites. At saturation point, water absorption for nylon composites was 7.7% by wt. after 45 days of immersion, which significantly affected the mechanical properties. The tensile strength of the nylon composites reduced from 88.4 MPa to 36.2 MPa, and modulus reduced from 5.6 GPa to 1.8 GPa after saturation.”

About the Winners


Ethan Watt 
4th-year Undergraduate Nanocomposites Student 
University of Guelph - Bioproducts Discovery and Development Centre

“Influence of Soy Hull Based Biocarbon and Graphene Nanoplatelets on the Performance of Polypropylene”

Ethan Watt is an undergraduate Nanoscience student in his fourth year at the University of Guelph. Within this field, his studies focus mainly on physical chemistry and material science. His area of focus at the Bioproducts Discovery & Development Centre is composite research, with particular interest in the incorporation of biocarbon and nanofillers into polymeric matrices.


Sandeep Tamrakar    
Research Engineer    
Ford Motor Company

“Water Absorption Behavior of Recycled PP and PA6 Composites Reinforced with Natural Fibers”

Sandeep Tamrakar is a Research Engineer at Ford's Research and Innovation Center. His research interest includes natural fiber reinforced composites, fiber matrix interfaces, viscoelastic behavior and durability analysis of polymer composites. Sandeep Tamrakar holds a Master of Science degree from University of Maine and a PhD degree in Civil Engineering from University of Delaware.

About ACCE 2020 

This year’s ACCE was a virtual event due to CDC recommendations for social distancing due to COVID-19. The three-day virtual ACCE featured two keynotes, two panel discussions, 40 technical presentations, and 23 sponsors presenting advances in materials, processes, and equipment for both thermoset and thermoplastic composites in a wide variety of transportation applications.  Daily virtual networking opportunities enhanced the value of the event that drew over 500 attendees worldwide.  The Automotive and Composites Divisions of the Society of Plastics Engineers (SPE®) jointly produce the ACCE to educate the industry about the benefits of composites in automotive, light and heavy-duty truck, off-highway vehicles, and other ground transportation applications. Sponsors for the SPE ACCE 2020 Virtual Event Included:

  • Premier Plus Sponsors:  BASF, Ford Motor Company, Hexagon/MSC Software, Hexion, Zoltek/Toray Group.
  • Premier Sponsors: 3M, BYK Additive & Instruments, Composites One, Lotte Chemical, Michelman, Schmidt & Heinzmann.
  • Associate Sponsors: Ashland Adhesives, Avient (formerly PolyOne), A Plus Datapoint Labs, Dieffenbacher, DSC Consumables, Fraunhofer/Western University, Johns Manville, Magna, Moldex 3D.
  • Contributor Sponsors:  American Chemistry Council Plastics Division, Dassault Systemes, IACMI The Composites Institute. 

Held annually in suburban Detroit, the ACCE in-person events typically draw over 800 speakers, exhibitors, sponsors and attendees and provide an environment dedicated solely to discussion, education and networking about advances in transportation composites.  Its global appeal is evident in the diversity of exhibitors, speakers, and attendees who come to the conference from Europe, the Middle East, Africa, and Asia/Pacific as well as North America.  About one-third of attendees work for automotive and light truck, agriculture, truck & bus or aviation OEMs and another 25% represent tier suppliers. Attendees also work for composite materials processing equipment, additives, or reinforcement suppliers; trade associations, consultancies, university and government labs; media; and investment banks. Since 2001, the event has been produced by the SPE Automotive & Composites Divisions.


The mission of SPE is to promote scientific and engineering knowledge relating to plastics worldwide and to educate industry, academia, and the public about these advances. SPE’s Automotive Division is active in educating, promoting, recognizing, and communicating technical accomplishments in all phases of plastics and plastic-based composite developments in the global transportation industry. SPE’s Composites Division does the same with a focus on plastic-based composites in multiple industries. Topic areas include applications, materials, processing, equipment, tooling, design, and development. For more information see and

For more information on the Society of Plastics Engineers, see

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