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Environmentally friendly thermosets: renewable curing agents for thermally reprocessable epoxy vitrimers

  • Full or part time
  • Application Deadline
    Monday, October 07, 2019
  • Funded PhD Project (Students Worldwide)
    Funded PhD Project (Students Worldwide)

Project Description

The project offers an excellent opportunity for a motivated student to work in a rapidly growing area of material science and acquire valuable experience and knowledge in organic and polymer chemistry, including various laboratory techniques and characterization tools. The project will also provide hands-on experience in various physical, thermal, and thermomechanical characterisation techniques for polymeric materials, a highly transferable skill.

Specifically, the student will synthesize and characterize novel curing agents using renewable starting materials. The novel curing agents will be used for designing epoxy thermosets that are self-healing and thermally reprocessable. This project is ideally suited for those with a background in chemistry or materials science, where the multidisciplinary nature of the project and the world class research facilities at IFM will support the learning and research experience throughout the project.

Environmental pollution by non-degradable plastics, and resource depletion are some of the drivers behind the ideals of a circular economy, where materials are designed for multiple life cycles. This PhD project aims to address the issue through redesigning a class of plastics called thermosets, which currently contributes significantly to landfill waste. Thermosets are glassy polymers that are infusible and insoluble in organic solvents. Thermosets comprise about 17% of the global polymer production, and yet are not recyclable since they cannot be thermally reprocessed. Vitrimers, a new class of thermosets containing reversible or exchangeable bonds as crosslinks, behave like traditional thermosets under ambient conditions but can be melted, manifesting glass-like fluidity and remouldability at elevated temperatures.

The project involves multiple aspects of the fabrication of a novel vitrimer. Firstly, the synthesis of novel curing agents for epoxy thermosets starting from a renewable reagent accessible through fermentation of cellulosic and lignin-based biomass. Secondly, the use of the novel curing agents in a vitrimer, and the characterisation of the resulting materials with respect to various properties. Owing to the amenability of the chemical bonds in the material to thermal exchange reactions, the resulting thermosets are expected to have multi-cycle reprocessability without significant loss in mechanical properties ― an essential trait of polymeric materials for a circular economy.
Project aim

Funding Notes

This scholarship is available over 3 years.

Stipend of $27,596 per annum tax exempt (2019 rate)
Relocation allowance of $500-1500 (for single to family) for students moving from interstate or overseas
International students only: Tuition fee and overseas health coverage for the duration of 4 years

To be eligible you must be enrolling full time and hold an honours degree (first class) or an equivalent standard master's degree with a substantial research component.

Additional desirable criteria include:

strong background in organic/materials/polymer chemistry.

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