Utrecht University

Molecular Redesign of Functional Plastics: A Structure-Property Search for Biodegradability 2023-2027

This project will systematically explore chemical structure space of three promising classes of circular plastics. The main purpose is understanding the underlying structure-property-biodegradability relationships. The insights will be exploited for the design of tailored, environment-specific biodegradability.

Three distinct materials will be targeted:

  1. biobased lactone-derived polymers obtained by ring-opening polymerization.
  2. polyesters consisting of (or doped with) biobased, readily degradable (co-)monomers.
  3. CO2-derived, polyolefin materials doped with readily cleavable linkages.

The variation of their physicochemical and materials properties (Tg, tensile strength, etc.) will be studied as function of molecular structure. Biodegradation properties will be assessed under marine and soil conditions and again related to chemical structure, this supported by appropriate model compound studies to study the relevant kinetics (e.g. of initial hydrolysis).

The project consists of four work packages:

  • WP1 Novel Polylactones.
  • WP2 Novel PET-like Polyesters and -amides.
  • WP3 Novel Polyethylene-like materials.
  • WP4 Environment-specific biodegradation.

The work is done by a PhD candidate (WP1-4), focusing on polymer synthesis and characterization (including biodegradability), and a 1y Postdoctoral Fellow (WP4), to set up the appropriate biodegradability assessments.

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