Bio-based and biodegradable monomers for short-lifetime products

Mindful that bio-based energy must be considered as part of an interconnected system, this work focuses on using sustainable chemistry and technology to develop bio-derived and biodegradable materials.  This work will specifically explore new bio-derived monomers and explore how these can react to form valuable short-lifetime products.

Examples of these products might be:

  • Coalescing aids – short oligomeric compounds used as a temporary plasticiser in film forming coatings
  • Soluble polymers – Polymers in liquid formulations (PLFs) have until now received less public attention than solid plastics; however they are used in eight key markets with a combined estimated global value of $1.3 trillion US dollars.  They’re used as adhesives and sealants, in agriculture, in household cleaning, in inks and coatings, as lubricants, paints and coatings, in personal care and cosmetics, and in water treatment.

Whilst we are interested in these products in their own right, we are also interested in how soluble polymers intended to go down the drain may impact anaerobic digesters at water treatment facilities and how polymers intended to be spread on fields, for example as seed coatings or as dispersants, may impact anaerobic digestion of biomass.

Early work will focus on preparing a library of novel bio-derived monomers, and exploring catalytic chemical condensations, and the effect of catalyst, concentration and temperatures on the polydispersity, degree of cross linking, viscosity and biodegradability will be explored.

Ultimately we anticipate preparing four novel oligomers and/or polymers with applications identified through industry partners to create a viable case study for future applications.

Products will be made on 50-100g scale, permitting biodegradability testing according to OECD 301 and 302 (aqueous) and ISO 17556 (soil), and permitting exploration of biodegradability in anaerobic environments. Structure-biodegradability relationships will be prepared (a notoriously problematic challenge given test-to-test variability), and compared with findings from other projects to enable the next generation of polymers/oligomers to be designed.

This project is led by Helen Sneddon.