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Seminar Series

"Sustainability in the Automotive Industry: Engineered Approaches using Renewable Materials and Green Manufacturing"

Srikanth Pilla

Srikanth Pilla, Ph.D.

Department of Automotive Engineering
Department of Materials Science and Engineering
Center for Optical Materials Science and Engineering Technologies (COMSET)


Sustainability is generally driven by environmental, social and economic issues. Many industries across the world are implementing sustainability in their R&D and business footprints. Especially, the automotive industries are looking for ways to integrate research, engineering and business portfolios into the sustainability scheme. However, there exist many challenges and uncertainties such as regulatory, technological, consumer and investment, in the execution of sustainability in the automotive sector. Of these, technological uncertainty poses a critical challenge as this relates to the design/stability of the vehicle thereby directly affecting the safety of the passenger(s). This presentation will discuss the sustainability in automotive industries from scientific point of view; especially, from the viewpoint of polymeric materials and their fabrication.

This presentation will highlight the hierarchy of three R’s i.e. Recycle, Renewable and Reduce. Recycling focuses on understanding and evaluating the recyclability of the current age ‘synthetic’ plastics so as to provide a transition pathway for the futuristic bioplastics. In this front, the talk will present the strategies to enhance the recyclability and reusability of post-consumer plastics i.e. injecting more life into the recycled plastics while also restoring the properties that would have been lost otherwise. Renewability via the futuristic bioplastics surrounds the theme of sustainability. Bioplastics, together with its constituent bioresources i.e. green- and bio- composites, pillar the biobased economy which itself challenges the agriculture, forestry, academia, government and industrial sectors. The talk highlights the prime focus areas in the renewability sector i.e. green composites – made from bioplastics/biopolymers and natural fibers – and biocomposites – made from petroleum based polymers and natural fibers – specifically discussing (with an example) the green composites. Reduce emphasizes on the lightweight property; executed via innovative structure and optimization of the materials. This is illustrated through unique biofoams fabricated using advanced sustainable manufacturing technology viz. supercritical fluid assisted foaminjection molding and/or foam-extrusion.

The hierarchical three R’s open the doors and clear-up the paths for sustainable engineering in the automotive sector. Specifically, the emerging renewable and reduce segments are poised to create a major breakthrough; the biofoams and the green composites provide enhanced reduction in weight without compromising on the structural strength which is quite favorable for the automotive sector where even a fractional weight saving can make significant contribution to energy savings with reduced gasoline consumption and with added advantages of eco-friendliness. The approaches that will be discussed in the talk will help to accelerate and facilitate the recycling and reduction of synthetic polymers as well as promote an increased adoption of polymers and composites from renewable resources thereby advocating sustainability in the automotive sector.


Dr. Pilla is an assistant professor in the Department of Automotive Engineering at Clemson University and holds an affiliated appointment in the Department of Materials Science and Engineering. He got his PhD from the University of Wisconsin at Milwaukee with postdoctoral training at Stanford University. Prior to joining Clemson University, Dr. Pilla worked for 3 years as an Assistant Scientist at the Wisconsin Institute for Discovery, University of Wisconsin-Madison. Dr. Pilla has edited three books and authored 70 technical articles, including 40 journal papers. Dr. Pilla currently serves as an associate editor of the SAE International Journal of Materials and Manufacturing and Series Editor of the Polymer Science and Plastics Engineering at Wiley-Scrivener. He also serves on the boards of Journal of Renewable Materials as well as the Society of Plastics Engineers Injection Molding Division and Bioplastics Division.

His research focuses on the mechanics, processing, and characterization of polymers, biopolymers, multifunctional composites, nanocomposites, and microcellular foams and LCA modeling and analysis.

Thursday, November 20, 2014
2:30 PM
132 Fluor Daniel Building