Process efficiency in polymer extrusion: Correlation between the energy demand and melt thermal stability

Chamil Abeykoon, Adrian L. Kelly, Javier Vera-Sorroche, Elaine C. Brown, Phil D. Coates, Jing Deng, Kang Li, Eileen Harkin-Jones, Mark Price

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

43 Citations (Scopus)


Thermal stability is of major importance in polymer extrusion, where product quality is dependent upon the level of melt homogeneity achieved by the extruder screw. Extrusion is an energy intensive process and optimisation of process energy usage while maintaining melt stability is necessary in order to produce good quality product at low unit cost. Optimisation of process energy usage is timely as world energy prices have increased rapidly over the last few years. In the first part of this study, a general discussion was made on the efficiency of an extruder. Then, an attempt was made to explore correlations between melt thermal stability and energy demand in polymer extrusion under different process settings and screw geometries. A commodity grade of polystyrene was extruded using a highly instrumented single screw extruder, equipped with energy consumption and melt temperature field measurement. Moreover, the melt viscosity of the experimental material was observed by using an off-line rheometer. Results showed that specific energy demand of the extruder (i.e. energy for processing of unit mass of polymer) decreased with increasing throughput whilst fluctuation in energy demand also reduced. However, the relationship between melt temperature and extruder throughput was found to be complex, with temperature varying with radial position across the melt flow. Moreover, the melt thermal stability deteriorated as throughput was increased, meaning that a greater efficiency was achieved at the detriment of melt consistency. Extruder screw design also had a significant effect on the relationship between energy consumption and melt consistency. Overall, the relationship between the process energy demand and thermal stability seemed to be negatively correlated and also it was shown to be highly complex in nature. Moreover, the level of process understanding achieved here can help to inform selection of equipment and setting of operating conditions to optimise both energy and thermal efficiencies in parallel.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)560-571
Number of pages12
JournalApplied Energy
Early online date25 Sept 2014
Publication statusPublished (in print/issue) - 5 Dec 2014


  • Energy demand
  • Energy efficiency
  • Melt viscosity
  • Polymer extrusion
  • Process monitoring
  • Thermal stability


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