Investigating new polymerisation routes to (bio)degradable and sustainable polymers

Lead Research Organisation: University of Liverpool
Department Name: Chemistry


Research area: Materials Science
The global need for new polymers is growing rapidly and several approaches are being targeted to address this issue. Creating new monomers, and searching for renewable sources or manufacturing routes for existing monomers, is a key activity although the long-term fate of materials with conventional structures is still an outstanding problem. A new research strategy will be utilised, allowing "drop in" manufacturing to produce polymers of interest whilst causing minimal disruption to industrial practices and supply chains. The student will be engaging strongly with industrial needs, utilising novel chemistries whilst seeking to fundamentally understand and optimise the mechanism of polymerisation and develop structure/property relationships able to predict performance. Establishing the sustainability agenda for these new polymers will also require the student to investigate (bio)degradability and seek out renewable sources for monomers incorporated in their synthesis. The student will join an active team that is researching the fine details of the new chemistry and interacting with industry, including producing polymer samples at larger scales than the traditional laboratory setting, all whilst focusing on sustainable practices.
1. To utilise novel polymer synthesis routes in order to create bespoke "degradable" polymers, with an aim to collaborate with industrial partners and scale these reactions up and process the products as functional materials. As part of this, successful materials will be selected for testing in collaboration with the aforementioned industrial partners, allowing for a green alternative to materials currently used in many household products.
2. To investigate the applicability of the novel polymer synthesis with bio sourced materials, an area that is currently massively overshadowed by petroleum feedstock-based materials. The student will aim to contribute towards bridging this gap by creating methods that produce materials with equivalent or better alternatives to those currently available in academia and industry.
3. To reduce the overall energy consumption throughout the entire material production process. The student will achieve this by designing greener reaction conditions (solvents etc.) and by using the previously discussed novel polymer synthesis to impart sustainable functionality onto new materials synthesised whilst reducing the overall energy cost.
The Approach to completing these issues:
1. Researching in depth government/academic literature and gaining an unbiased understanding of the various challenges that scientists have faced when determining how to classify materials as "green", "sustainable", "biodegradable" and all of the terms associated with this field. This will be achieved by the student collaborating with academic and industrial partners to fully understand the impact of materials from their production in the lab to their distribution worldwide.
2. Optimising the novel polymerisation techniques developed within the research group to produce new sustainable materials, both in terms of new routes to developing high quality bioderived materials and imparting degradable functionality into materials to provide alternatives to the environmentally unfriendly materials currently present in many household products
3. Using the understanding of how sustainability is classified to design analytical methods in order to quantify said sustainability and scaling up the synthesis of materials deemed to be successful by these tests. This scale up will allow the student to understand the energy demands of their material production, a factor that is often overlooked in lab scale synthesis.


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Studentship Projects

Project Reference Relationship Related To Start End Student Name
EP/R513271/1 01/10/2018 30/09/2023
2270988 Studentship EP/R513271/1 01/10/2019 31/03/2023 Samuel Mckeating