University of Twente Student Theses


Comparison of the environmental impacts of a glass-reinforced plastic composite and steel slideway

Abdullahi, Suleiman S.A (2021) Comparison of the environmental impacts of a glass-reinforced plastic composite and steel slideway.

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Abstract:The extraction, production and fabrication of materials used in building of new structures cause different environmental side effects such as emission of greenhouse gases, nutrification of soils and surface water. The environmental impacts of some of the most widely used building materials like steel have been extensively studied and quantified through various scientific approaches. The need to curb the environmental impacts of such material have led to development of new materials such as glass-reinforced plastic (GRP) composites. These materials are structurally viable and inexpensive compared to other building materials like steel, however, studies that evaluate and quantify their environmental impacts are limited and require a thorough analysis in order to make climate-friendly choices regarding their application. This study is about an extensive study to quantify the environmental impacts of a glass-fibre-reinforced plastic (GFRP) composite slideway according to Life Cycle Analysis (LCA) methodology as stipulated within the International Organization for Standardization ISO standards and compare the results with a steel slideway of similar functionality. The identifications and quantification of these impacts provide insights into the performance of GRP under various climatic metrics such as global warming potential (GWP), Ozone layer depletion potential (ODP), etc. For each material, a detailed cradle-to-grave assessment including both production and use pollutions were performed. The data that was used in the analysis was collected based on the design specifications of Ampelmann and fabrication techniques of Airborne. The postulated hypothesis was that the composite slideway would perform better under different environmental categories, this hypothesis has been tested and results indicate that steel slideway has higher total environmental impact over a 10-year period when compared with the GRP composite slideway. The total amount of pollution in various stages of composite is 1.8% more than the steel for the GWP potential and 15% more in the case of ozone layer depletion potential. The most burdening life cycle phase is the use and maintenance phase which contributes the highest environmental effects for both slideways as a result of their operation period. Furthermore, the impact of the GFRP composite on acidification potential and Eutrophication is lower per kg compared to the steel slideway. On the other hand, the inventory data indicated slightly larger production waste for the GFRP especially in terms of epoxy and PVC waste. Most of the impact categories are influenced by the amount of energy consumed and the toxicity of emission associated with the production of epoxy used in the GFRP and the life cycle of steel production. Overall, the outcome of this study can be used to understand the current sustainability levels of GFRP composite and to be used to weigh the climatic pros of using them in place of steel. The decisions stemming from such policies will contribute to the sustainability of the organization’s business model through cost cutting while simultaneously curbing the impacts of global warming by reducing the potential greenhouse emission associated with extraction and production of the building material.
Item Type:Essay (Bachelor)
Ampelmann Operations, Delft, Netherlands
Faculty:ET: Engineering Technology
Subject:56 civil engineering
Programme:Civil Engineering BSc (56952)
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