“Let’s burn rubber!” – Robin Bähre knows this exclamation when fellow drivers want him to go faster. Literally, it means that rubber is released to the road surface through abrasion – at any speed.
Tire abrasion is one of the most significant sources of particulate environmental contamination worldwide. And yet, to date, little is known about its behavior in the environment. The aim of Robin Bähre’s work is therefore to investigate the main factors influencing the degradation of tire abrasion in aquatic environments.
The goal: “Making the world a little more sustainable”.
But how does a graduate of the master’s degree program in mechanical engineering at Leibniz Universität Hannover come up with this topic? “As part of my studies, I dealt intensively with material sciences and came to plastics through them. Once you turn your attention to plastics, you can’t get past the much-discussed problems they cause today. One of them is microplastics caused by tire abrasion,” says Robin Bähre, for whom ecological issues have always been important: “It would be great if we could use the scientific knowledge we have gained to make the world a little more sustainable.”
The project: Degradation behavior of tire abrasion
Robin Bähre will investigate the degradation behavior of tire abrasion in aquatic environments as part of his doctorate. For this purpose, tire abrasion with defined properties will be generated on a laboratory scale. Using manometric respiration tests, the biodegradability of the particles will first be tested within closed bottle systems. This is followed by scaled-up open degradation experiments in aquarium systems, so-called microcosms. With the help of these experiments, the degradation behavior under superposition of biological, chemical and mechanical degradation mechanisms is to be investigated in order to better represent the real conditions of aquatic habitats in the laboratory.
The investigations should ultimately help to determine the degradation and fragmentation rates of tire abrasion as a function of the tire material and the environmental conditions. The project is being carried out in cooperation with Continental AG and the German Institute for Rubber Technology (DIK) as associated partners.
The scholarship: DBU supports doctoral students
For more than 25 years, the DBU has been supporting young scientists with scholarships for interesting projects in a wide range of disciplines, all of which, however, have a strong connection to environmental protection and nature conservation. In addition to supporting individual doctoral students, the DBU thus also pursues the goal of establishing a network of environmental experts from various disciplines.
Further information on the scholarship and the application process can be found here: https://www.dbu.de/2821.html.