Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)



Committee Chair/Advisor

Dr. Rhett C. Smith

Committee Member

Dr. Shiou-Jyh Hwu

Committee Member

Dr. Marek Urban

Committee Member

Dr. Byoungmoo Kim


Environmental sustainability represents a challenge for society since industrial growth has a direct impact on natural resources and waste production. New technologies that effectively incorporate waste into renewable resources are critical to the development of a sustainable and circular economy. The manufacturing of structural materials like Portland cement (OPC) is responsible for >8% of the global anthropogenic emissions of carbon dioxide, with ~ 1 kg of CO2 released to the atmosphere for every kilogram of OPC produced. For instance, the development of sustainable structural materials is a key factor to reduce the greenhouse emissions and to attenuate the climate change.

Plant oils and animal coproducts primarily comprised of triglycerides and unsaturated fatty acids represent abundant feedstocks with great potential to replace the traditional petrochemical olefins to produce more sustainable materials via atom economical processes like inverse vulcanization. The work presented in this dissertation focuses on the incorporation of post-consumer plastic and low value animal fats to produce high sulfur content composites that exhibit impressive thermal and mechanical properties.

Chapter one reviews the prominent studies that have been done to develop new lithium-sulfur batteries having improved anode interface, better electrolyte and cathode design, and enhanced electrochemical performance. The emergence of Li-S battery technologies represents an important alternative in green economy and represents a promising alternative to overcome different environmental challenges encountered by the production and used of traditional liquid state batteries.

Chapter two and three reports the atom economical polymerization of triglycerides, low value animal fats and their reaction with elemental sulfur to yield high strength composites that showed great chemical and thermomechanical stabilities when compared to other traditional building materials.

Chapter four and five report synthetic routes to chemically modify and repurpose post-consumer Poly(ethylene terephthalate) employing sustainable bio-olefins such as fatty acid derivatives and animal fats , and the subsequent reaction with industrial by-product sulfur to yield high strength structural materials. A detailed analysis of the morphology, thermal and mechanical properties of the composites is discussed.

Chapter six describes a strategy to synthesize high sulfur content materials utilizing underexploited organic chemical precursors such as rancid animal fats. During this work, a blend of partially hydrolyzed chicken fat and plant oils as the comonomers, followed by the reaction with elemental sulfur yielded highly crosslinked polymer composites having compressive and flexural strengths that exceeded that of traditional building materials like OPC.



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