Grantham Scholar Neil Lunt’s project looks at how to make novel polymer networks in plastics that allow for better recycling and reuse.
The negative impact of plastic has become one of the most pressing issues that faces humankind today. With the ever growing throw away culture and rising use of single-use plastics, macroplastics and/or microplastics are being found in the globe’s oceans, rivers, lakes, soils, sediments and even in our atmosphere and within animal biomass. The development of novel polymer networks that can associate or dissociate when an external stimulus is applied will enable the reuse and recycling of these plastics, creating a much more sustainable, circular economy.
The aim of my project is to investigate a series of new reaction pairs that can be incorporated into crosslinked covalent adaptable networks (CANs). These new pairs have the potential to operate within different temperature ranges to conventional approaches. Therefore, when incorporated into polymer networks, they will yield thermally reversible materials that can withstand higher temperatures before triggering the reverse reaction, allowing their use in applications that are currently unviable. The target in terms of applications for the networks produced will be primarily, but not necessarily limited to, adhesives. The materials should possess good mechanical and adhesive qualities, while having the ability to dissociate at the end of life, allowing substrates to be separated and the networks to be recycled and reused.