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  Novel epoxy-thermoset polymers for sustainable and recyclable applications (ref: SF22/HLS/APP/UNTHANK)

   Faculty of Health and Life Sciences

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  Prof Matt Unthank  Applications accepted all year round  Self-Funded PhD Students Only

About the Project

Epoxy thermoset polymers are essential for the creation of high-performance materials, plastics, coatings and composites and have important applications in renewable infrastructure (wind turbine blades), structural adhesives and lightweight aerospace composites (for more energy efficient travel). Such materials are therefore an important part of the global effort to reduce CO2 emissions, prevent environmental pollution and minimise global warming. At present epoxy-thermoset materials are designed to be almost ‘indestructible’ in their field application, and as such no viable recycling or reuse strategy exists for this important and high-volume class of materials.

At Northumbria, we are working on the development of new epoxy-thermoset materials that are suitable for a range of applications including coatings, composites and adhesives. Unlike ‘traditional’ epoxy-composites (which are designed to be ‘indestructible’), our materials have a built in (chemical) disassembly mechanism to allow both mechanical recycling (i.e., remoulding) or chemical recycling (recovery of polymers and separation from other materials).

This self-funded 3-year PhD project will involve the synthesis, characterisation and recyclability evaluation of novel epoxy-thermoset materials based on a ‘design-for-remanufacture’ philosophy. All approaches are based on established high-performance, low-cost molecular building blocks already used in epoxy-thermoset applications, allowing maximum impact from this research. Using this approach, we will create high-value sustainable materials that can be recycled or remanufactured via both and chemical recycling methods.

We are looking for a talented chemistry or materials science graduate (or related discipline) with a passion for synthetic chemistry, polymer chemistry or material science, for this self-funded 3-year PhD project. The project will be multi-disciplinary, combining synthetic chemistry, polymer chemistry, molecule/material characterisation, and prototype development allowing the PhD student the unique opportunity to develop expertise across these diverse fields of science, supported by leading experts in this field.

The successful PhD student will be based at Northumbria University (Newcastle City Campus) benefiting from established expertise at this institution in the synthesis and characterisation of functional polymers and thermoset materials, under the guidance of Assoc. Professor. Dr. Matt Unthank (

Eligibility and How to Apply:

Please note eligibility requirement:

•      Academic excellence of the proposed student i.e. 2:1 (or equivalent GPA from non- UK universities [preference for 1st class honours]); or a Masters (preference for Merit or above)

•      Appropriate IELTS score, if required

For further details of how to apply, entry requirements and the application form, see


Please note: All applications must include a covering letter (up to 1000 words maximum) including why you are interested in this PhD, a summary of the relevant experience you can bring to this project and of your understanding of this subject area with relevant references (beyond the information already provided in the advert). Applications that do not include the advert reference (e.g. SF22/HLS/APP/UNTHANK) will not be considered.


Deadline for applications: Ongoing

Start Date: 1st October and 1st March are the standard cohort start dates each year.

Northumbria University is committed to creating an inclusive culture where we take pride in, and value, the diversity of our doctoral students. We encourage and welcome applications from all members of the community. The University hold a bronze Athena Swan award in recognition of our commitment to advancing gender equality, we are a Disability Confident Employer, a member of the Race Equality Charter and are participating in the Stonewall Diversity Champion Programme. We also hold the HR Excellence in Research award for implementing the concordat supporting the career development of researchers.

Informal enquiries to Dr Matt Unthank ([Email Address Removed])

Chemistry (6) Materials Science (24)

Funding Notes

This project is fully self-funded and available to applicants worldwide. Tuition fees will depend on the running cost of the individual project, in line with University fee bands found at The fee will be discussed and agreed at interview stage.
Please note: to be classed as a Home student, candidates must meet the following criteria:
Be a UK National (meeting residency requirements), or
have settled status, or
have pre-settled status (meeting residency requirements), or
have indefinite leave to remain or enter.
If a candidate does not meet the criteria above, they would be classed as an International student.


M. G. Unthank, C. Cameron, A. Wright, D. Hughes, M. A. Alam and M. R. Probert, ‘Amino-diol borate complexation for controlling transport phenomena of penetrant molecules into polymeric matrices’, Poly. Chem., 2019, 10, 4920.
P Chakma, and D. Konkolewicz, Dynamic Covalent Bonds in Polymeric Materials. Angewandte Chemie – Int. Ed., 2019, 58, 2–16.
Dr. Unthank press release

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