Assessing the impact of sterilisation on the usability of medical plastic waste


   School of Chemical Engineering

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  Dr Anita Ghag, Prof A Dove, Prof Joan Geoghegan  Applications accepted all year round  Funded PhD Project (European/UK Students Only)

About the Project

The burden of medical plastic waste has become an increasingly pressing concern in recent years. The healthcare industry relies heavily on single-use plastic items due to their convenience and hygiene factors, but this has led to a significant environmental problem. Improper disposal and inadequate recycling of medical plastics contribute to pollution, ecosystem degradation, and potential harm to human health. This PhD project aims to address this burden via a multifaceted approach.

As a PhD candidate, you will be part of a collaborative effort to explore the critical intersections of sterilisation methods, plastic properties, and robotic selection. The project aims to address the challenges associated with ensuring the sterility and usability of medical testing plastics, while also assessing the effect of repeated sterilisation on plastic properties.

Key Deliverables:

1. Sterilisation Efficiency Evaluation: Engage in a comprehensive evaluation of sterilisation methods such as E-beam, autoclave, and gamma irradiation. Assess the efficacy of these methods in eradicating common microorganisms found on various plastics used in medical testing. Investigate the influence of bioburden on sterilisation effectiveness, and generate data to inform the selection of optimal sterilisation techniques and dose rates.

2. Impact on Plastic Properties: Investigate the effects of repeated sterilization on plastic properties. Explore the radical-mediated degradation and crosslinking processes triggered by high-dose irradiation, as well as the influence of steam and temperature on plastic characteristics.

3. Understanding Property Changes: Utilise advanced techniques such as thermal analysis to uncover the underlying reasons for changes in plastic properties due to sterilisation. Identify chemical crystallisation processes that contribute to property alterations and characterise potential failure modes. Employ compression testing to study the performance of plastic products subjected to sterilisation, ensuring their usability and durability.

4. Robotic Selection Integration: Work alongside a project team to develop a system capable of identifying plastic products that have undergone excessive sterilisation cycles and are no longer suitable for use. This technology will contribute to sustainable recycling methods by redirecting high-purity materials toward mechanical or chemical recycling processes.

The project will be based in the School of Chemical Engineering with collaboration with the Schools of Chemistry and Biosciences. The project supervision team consists of Dr Anita Ghag, Prof Andrew Dove and Prof Joan Geoghegan.

Chemistry (6) Engineering (12) Materials Science (24)

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 About the Project