About the Project
Polymers, better known as plastics, are widespread in modern society as they are light, strong, and cheap. Their demand is dramatically increasing. However, polymers are regarded as unsustainable as they are environmentally persistent and their production is dependent on finite fossil-based resources. In 2015, 99.5% of plastics were still produced from oil so that there is an urgent need for further research into the production of sustainable plastics. Additionally, in 2014, 32.3 gigatonnes of waste carbon dioxide were released into the atmosphere. Therefore, polymers made from a cheap and renewable resource like CO2 are highly desirable products.
The aim of this project, funded by the University of Bath, will be to utilise CO2 as a raw material in the synthesis of cyclic carbonate monomers, which are the building blocks of polycarbonate polymers. Polycarbonates are furthermore promising materials for numerous applications, including as thermoplastics, binders for photovoltaics, polymer electrolytes, adhesives, tissue engineering scaffolds and drug delivery carriers. The current method used to produce cyclic carbonate monomers relies on coupling diols with energy intensive and toxic phosgene derivatives, limiting access to these monomers and preventing their applications from being investigated. Using CO2 instead of phosgene is an extremely attractive alternative but this requires CO2 to be activated and coupled with reactive molecules such as epoxides and oxetanes which can be difficult to access.
Novel catalysts are required to directly couple CO2 with readily available diols. Very few catalysts exist for this reaction; they all require harsh conditions and usually focus on 5-membered cyclic carbonates that cannot be polymerised.
Building on our published preliminary results (RSC Advances, 2015, 5, 39404–39408, in open access) and using an experimental and computational approach, this project will develop an innovative type of homogeneous catalysts to produce cyclic carbonate monomers. The synthesis of bifunctional catalysts will be targeted, including organocatalytic systems, metal complexes tethered to organic moieties, and bimetallic inorganic catalysts. These catalysts will ultimately be used to transform carbohydrates from biomass and food waste into new monomers that cannot be accessed using traditional phosgene reagents. The immobilisation of surface of promising catalysts and preliminary polymerisation studies of new monomers could also be undertaken.
We are seeking a motivated, independent and rigorous student, who is passionate about scientific research and eager to learn, to join our young, ambitious research team for this project. The Buchard group at Bath is a multidisciplinary team focusing on several aspects of sustainable catalysis and renewable polymer chemistry (further details on our website www.people.bath.ac.uk/apb46). Specific project details will be discussed during the application/interview stage.
Applicants should hold (or expect to be awarded) a First Class Masters degree (i.e. MSci, MRes or MChem) in Chemistry. Relevant previous research experience in academic laboratories is essential (organic and/or organometallic/inorganic synthetic chemistry, catalysis), but no prior experience of computational chemistry is required but willingness to learn necessary.
Interested candidates are encouraged to make contact as soon as possible with Dr Antoine Buchard. Please attach a full CV with details of all University course grades to date, contact details of at least two academic referees, a short cover letter and a summary of your past/current research (max. 2 pages). All applications will be reviewed rapidly and promising applicants will be invited to an interview.
Please be aware that the University of Bath reserves the right to close this vacancy early should sufficient applications be received.
The Department of Chemistry at the University of Bath possesses a vibrant student body (110 PhD students) with the opportunity to interact scientifically and socially and participate in public engagement activities. Furthermore, the Researcher Development Unit offers excellent opportunities to develop transferable skills (www.bath.ac.uk/learningandteaching/rdu/courses/pgskills/index.html). At the end of your PhD at the University of Bath, you will have acquired a variety of technical skills and techniques to plan and undertake independent research, published and presented your work at national and international conferences, and you will be equipped to follow a variety of different postgraduate career paths, in industry or academia.
This studentship will provide funding for a tax-free stipend (currently £14,296 pa), training support fee and UK/EU tuition fees for 3.5 years for full-time students. Applicants must be classed as UK/EU for tuition fee purposes. Applicants who are classed as International for tuition fee purposes are not eligible for funding.
For full details on eligibility criteria for EU students, please see: https://www.epsrc.ac.uk/skills/students/help/eligibility/