Every year millions of tonnes of plastics and are produced. Of the annual production, about 10% is recycled, 15% is burned and the remaining 75% is disposed to landfills or leaks into the environment. Simultaneously as the demand of plastic materials is increasing, there is a paradigm shift towards more sustainable materials. The design and development of sustainable polymers, the backbone of plastics, is therefore crucial.
Major strategies include using biomass as a source of green carbon, designing polymers towards degradability and enabling chemical recycling. Depending on the source of carbon and the ability to degrade, polymers used for plastics are classified as petrobased or biobased and degrabable or non-degradable.
Despite the industrial production of biobased and biodegradable polymers, there are challenges yet to overcome. Often the synthesis of bio monomers demands elaborate procedures and the produced materials usually suffer from brittleness and poor thermal properties. Furthermore, the degradation rates in natural environments are often slow at ambient temperatures.To be able to design the next generation of plastic materials, obtaining a broader understanding of the molecular structure ? property relationship of biopolymers is of great importance.
Polyethylene terephtalate (PET) is one of the most widely used plastic materials with its main applications including textile fibers, food packaging and plastic bottles. The polymer material is generally considered as non-biodegradable and from petrochemical sources. In the search for more sustainable plastic materials, polymers based on bio sourced furandicarboxylic acid (FDCA) has emerged as promising candidates for replacing the use of PETs. Poly(butylene adipate-co-furanoate) (PBAF) is a patented biodegradable polyester of interest based on FDCA.
This project is based on the structure-properties of PBAF. Systematically chemical modification of the polymer structure enables production of materials with different properties. By determining chemical structure and analyse mechanical and thermal properties as well as monitoring degradation mechanisms, the overall goal is to obtain an understanding of the structure-property-relationship and how these can be tuned.