2/2015

Expert in rubber technology wants to make the world a better place

FiDiPro Fellow Amit Das delves into everyday phenomena to gain a deeper understanding of their underlying mechanisms. His latest research deals with self-healing tires.

Amit Das

 

“The working environment at TUT is very good. I like the friendly atmosphere between colleagues and students," Amit Das says.

 

Amit Das is a senior scientist in the Leibniz Institute of Polymer Research Dresden and head of the Smart Rubbers Group. As FiDiPro Fellow, he brings his acknowledged expertise in the field of rubber technology and self-healing materials to the Department of Materials Science at TUT.

Rubber technology is a broad interdisciplinary field that encompasses mechanical engineering, chemical engineering and applied physics. Amit Das became interested in rubber technology while working towards his PhD. At the time, rubber was not considered a hot research topic, but Das’s interest in looking at everyday problems at a deeper level drew him towards the field.

“I challenged myself to seriously take on this matter and work towards my goal to become an expert in this engineering and technology oriented subject. Afterwards, I received a lot of encouragement from my colleagues, such as Professor Gert Heinrich of IPF and Professor Jyrki Vuorinen of TUT, which made my path smoother.”

From raw materials to smart rubbers

Das has been developing rubber technology for the past 15 years. One of his areas of expertise is the vulcanization reactions and reinforcement process of rubbers. He is actively exploring novel ideas to turn commercially available raw materials into smart rubbers. His work has resulted in more than 100 journal publications and dozens of international patents.

“One of my most interesting works is probably the development of zinc oxide or metal oxide free sulphur vulcanised rubber compounds. This technology allows us to produce an environmentally friendly and transparent rubber component, which is vulcanised by the sulphur vulcanization technique and simultaneously with very high loading of externally added fillers. Earlier, it was not possible to develop zinc oxide based sulphur cured compounds,” Das explains.

Amit Das will receive the prestigious Sparks-Thomas Award from the American Chemical Society (ACS Rubber Division) in recognition of his scientific achievements in April 2016. The Sparks-Thomas Award honours young scientists, technologists and engineers who have made outstanding scientific contributions and innovations in the field of elastomers.

Future car tires heal themselves

WHO? Amit Das (born in 1971 in Calcutta, India)

Education:

  • MSc in Physical Chemistry from one of the central universities in India. PhD in Rubber Chemistry and Technology from the Indian Association for the Cultivation of Science.
  • Work experience: Two years of industry experience in a metal manufacturing company (Sterlite Copper). 15 years of research and teaching experience.

Key research achievements:

  • Exploitation of commercial rubber into self-healing materials.
  • Elucidation of the role of zinc oxide in the sulphur vulcanization process.
  • Development of different technologies to disperse very fine solid particles in soft elastomers.
  • Zinc oxide free sulphur vulcanization rubbers.
  • Insights into the role of ionic liquid in rubber compounds.
Hobbies: Reading magazines and newspapers, listening to music.

Family: 11-year-old son Aran and wife Papiya.
 

Das’s latest research on self-healing tires has attracted widespread interest.

“Nature has always been the ultimate inspiration for the development of technology. Over a time span of millions of years, evolution has perfected the art of self-healing to ensure the survival of different species. What if these capabilities could be incorporated into technology? What if materials could heal themselves? "Self-healing" has emerged as a challenging area of research to control damage to inanimate objects, such as vehicle tires. It combines knowledge of rational design and materials science.”

Most of the previously reported self-healing rubbers have progressed little beyond the laboratory scale. Das’s team utilizes a common commercial rubber that they have modified using a very simple chemical process. The material can be easily produced in the existing facilities of the rubber industry.

“Further research is still necessary, among others, to make sure that the self-healing properties are retained when the rubber is compounded with reinforcing fillers, such as silica and carbon black. We will soon publish some of our promising results.”

Atmosphere conducive to academic success

Amit Das has no shortage of research ideas that have the potential to make a significant contribution to society.

“All research should benefit the world we live in, and all science and technology should serve a purpose,” he says.

Das visits TUT on a regular basis and considers it an excellent place to conduct fundamental research that is geared towards practical applications.

“The working environment at TUT is very good. I like the friendly atmosphere between colleagues and students. The comfortable atmosphere could be one of the factors that motivate students to do quality work.”

Text: Sanna Schildt
Photo: Mika Kanerva

 
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