Lucille Verster Rivera

MS, Chemical Engineering,2021
North Carolina State University, Raleigh

BS, Chemical Engineering, 2019
Louisiana State University, Baton Rouge

Research Focus: Unravel Degradation Modalities of Synthetic and Bio-Based Polymer Fiber Nonwovens

With the exponential increase in world plastic production to about 367 Mt recorded in 2020, excluding the recycled plastics, the amount of plastics in the environment has increased substantially due to their slow degradation rate. This poses a severe problem due to the fact that as plastic degrades, it releases and leaches out persistent organic pollutants (POPs) that could present a potential chemical hazard. In addition to POPs, degradation in the environment is directly related to microplastics release causing water, environmental, and marine pollution that adds to the harm to health and ecosystems.

My project suggests an approach to the investigation of the degradation of filaments and nonwoven patches in order to develop a novel millifluidic flow device (MFD). This MFD will enable the precise characterization and manipulation of thermal, light (photo), mechanical, chemical, and biological degradation under simulated controlled microenvironments. By studying a versatile group of plastics (biodegradable and non-biodegradable), we can have a better insight to the holistic mechanisms of polymer degradation and photostability as well as asses the performance of polymers in terms of undesirable release of micro- and nanoplastics. The expected outcome is to introduce industry-wide protocols for polymer testing to help mitigate the release of hazardous end products and microplastic formation.