Twente University

Reversible chemical modification of biopolymers for environment-specific biodegradation and prevention of microplastic pollution 2023-2027

This project will apply reversible chemical modification of biopolymers to achieve an environment-specific degradation.

The reversible chemical modification, moreover,

  1. has the potential for chemical recycling of these new materials,
  2. shall allow tuning of the mechanical and barrier properties and most importantly
  3. gives access to trigger degradation kinetics and profile, depending on the environment they are littered.

The biodegradation shall follow a two-step profile and acts as a safeguard in the life-cycle of such novel materials if littered and not recycled. This project shall set the basis for a larger consortium focusing on application-specific biodegradation.

Concretely the project will give access to a systematic library of biobased polymers that have a two-step degradation profile adjusted to the environment, in which biodegradation shall occur. Key is the reversible chemical modification of abundant, cheap biopolymers leading to chemically recyclable and biodegradable materials. Selective biodegradation in seawater, soil, and compost are targeted and will prevent the formation of non-degradable plastic waste and microplastic particle formation in the environment as part of a circular plastics economy.

The project consists of three work packages:

  • WP1 Seawater-degradable polymers.
  • WP2 Soil- and compost degradable polymers.
  • WP3 Chemical recyclable and biodegradable thermosets.

The work is done by a PhD candidate (WP1-3), focusing on environmental-specific biodegradation, and a Postdoctoral Fellow who will synthesize together with the PhD candidate modified biopolymers, and is responsible for materials testing and especially focused on chemical recycling together with inherent biodegradation.

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