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Biodegradable plastic composites from renewable or waste sources

Project Description

To reduce the amount of plastic waste in the marine environment, there is a strong incentive to switch to biodegradable polymers, which are ideally synthesised from renewable or waste streams, rather than from oil. However, biodegradable plastics often don’t have as good mechanical properties (strength, flexibility) as oil-based plastics. To make biodegradable polymers into useful products it is necessary to blend the polymers or add plasticisers or filler particles. This project will identify the most promising biodegradable polymers and filler particles and identify the strengths and weaknesses for a range of applications. Computer simulations will be used to investigate the structural and dynamical properties of biodegradable polymers and the effect of the addition of filler particles. The aim is to understand how the interaction between the filler particles, plasticisers, and the polymer and tailor the composite for applications that currently use oil-based polymers.

One of the key challenges in simulating polymer composites is the different length and time scales involved and this requires a multiscale modelling approach. This project will use a combination of quantum calculations, and atomistic and coarse-grained classical molecular dynamics, and will involve collaboration with experimental groups. Research findings will be important for a wide range of applications using polymer thin films or polymer composites.

In addition to undertaking cutting edge research, students are also registered for the Postgraduate Certificate in Researcher Development (PGCert), which is a supplementary qualification that develops a student’s skills, networks and career prospects.

Information about the host department can be found by visiting:

Funding Notes

This PhD project is initially offered on a self-funding basis. It is open to applicants with their own funding, or those applying to funding sources. However, excellent candidates may be considered for a University scholarship.

Students applying should have (or expect to achieve) a minimum 2.1 undergraduate degree in a relevant engineering/science discipline, and be highly motivated to undertake multidisciplinary research. Experience in a UNIX/Linux environment, and with electronic structure or molecular dynamics simulations, is desirable although not essential.

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