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Anglia Ruskin University ARU Featured PhD Programmes
Anglia Ruskin University ARU Featured PhD Programmes

Exploring polymer bead swelling in green sustainable solvents

Department of Chemistry

About the Project

Solid-phase peptide synthesis (SPPS) and solid-phase organic synthesis (SPOS) are key enabling tools in organic chemistry. The common denominator in both is the solid-phase, typically a polymer bead. The most widely used, cost effective bead is cross-linked polystyrene (PS). For chemistry using PS beads the solvent has to solvate (swell) the resin to allow reaction to proceed; this typically results in the use of very ‘ungreen’ solvents to achieve swelling such as dimethylformamide (DMF) and dichloromethane (DCM). Dimethylformamide (DMF) is reprotoxic, resulting in its classification as a substance of highest concern under the EU REACH regulations. Chlorinated solvents such as dichloromethane are also known to be highly toxic.

There is extensive interest (both within industry and academia) in the development of replacements for conventional solvents which have low toxicity and are sustainably sourced. Our aim is to build on our empirical data bank in the area of polymer compatibility with sustainable solvents but, more importantly, to develop an understanding of the underlying chemical principles involved in this process.

Experimental Approach
This project will be a synergistic amalgamation of organic chemistry (SPPS) and modelling studies. Once the empirical data is generated, HSPiP (Hansen Solubility Parameters in Practice) software will be used to model the resin-solvents interactions in terms of the relative importance of each Hansen solubility parameter and to develop resin swelling guidelines based on the Hansen solubility parameters. Further work will be guided by these results with the ultimate aim of allowing us to predict the solvent changes required during a synthetic protocol (either SPPS or SPOS).

This project is extremely timely with the impetus to replace solvents that will be banned or severely restricted in the near future. The applicants bring complementary expertise together to develop a ground-breaking approach chemistry on the solid-phase. The methodology we propose is novel and there is, to our knowledge, no precedent to our approach. This project could significantly ‘fast forward’ the adoption of sustainable solvents in the chemical industry with subsequent benefit to human health, the environment, the UK economy and business. It will also provide an exemplar of the adoption of circular economy principles within synthetic solid-phase chemistry.

This project is expected to be of significant commercial interest, especially by the pharmaceuticals sector. Solvents are critical to the chemistry carried out in this sector (both in solution and on the solid-phase). Benzene and carbon tetrachloride are two well-known examples of previously widely used solvents that cannot now be used by the pharmaceuticals sector. The ability to design a solid-phase synthesis with not only the reagents but optimal sustainable solvent(s) for each step of the synthesis. The project will give the student opportunities to interact/collaborate with interested industry.
The project is multi-disciplinary and will provide excellent lab-based training since it involves a wide range of techniques. In addition, all Chemistry research students have access to our innovative Doctoral Training in Chemistry (iDTC): cohort-based training to support the development of scientific, transferable and employability skills:

The Department of Chemistry holds an Athena SWAN Gold Award and is committed to supporting equality and diversity for all staff and students. The Department strives to provide a working environment which allows all staff and students to contribute fully, to flourish, and to excel:

You should hold or expect to achieve the equivalent of at least a UK upper second class degree in Chemistry or a related subject. Please check the entry requirements for your country:

For more information about the project, click on the supervisor’s name above to email the supervisor. For more information about the application process or funding, please click on email institution

Funding Notes

This project is available to students from any country who can fund their own studies.

The Department of Chemistry at the University of York is pleased to offer Wild Fund Scholarships. Applications are welcomed from those who meet the PhD entry criteria from any country outside the UK. Scholarships will be awarded on supervisor support, academic merit, country of origin, expressed financial need and departmental strategy. For further details and deadlines, please see our website: View Website

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