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  PhD in Mono-Material Barrier Films for Sustainable and Circular Plastic Packaging Applications (MonoFilm)


  ,  Applications accepted all year round  Funded PhD Project (UK Students Only)

About the Project

Plastic packaging materials play a crucial role in today's society, offering advantages such as versatility, hygiene, safety, lightweight properties, and, notably, a low carbon footprint when compared to alternative materials. Despite the apparent simplicity of plastic bags or wrappers for everyday items like crisps, cheese, or ham, they often consist of multiple layers of different plastic types. While these layers effectively preserve food freshness and minimize waste, they pose significant challenges in terms of recyclability.

Driven by the imperative that all plastic packaging must be recyclable by 2030, the plastics industry is actively exploring mono-material solutions. The MonoFilm project aims to replace difficult-to-recycle multilayer films with fully recyclable alternatives comprising solely of polyolefins (PO). The primary objective of this research is to develop a fully recyclable, all-polyolefin barrier film with enhanced gas impermeability. The ambitious goal is to rival existing commercial solutions, such as multilayer polymer films based on EVOH, PA, or PET, which currently dominate the high-barrier packaging applications.

Oriented polyolefin films possess unique properties, including mechanical strength, optical clarity (transparency), and barrier capabilities. For instance, a perfectly oriented polyethylene (PE) single crystal exhibits an exceptional barrier against O2, CO2, and H2O due to the densely packed polymer chains within the crystal structure. In the MonoFilm project, comprehensive research will be conducted on the impact of industrially relevant solid-state drawing processes, such as machine direction orientation (MDO) in PE films, on gas barrier properties. The aim is to develop fully recyclable PO films with gas barrier properties surpassing current state-of-the-art standards.

To achieve this, the project will contribute to (i) new insights into the origins of enhancing barrier properties in highly oriented PO films and (ii) developing an intricate relationship between polymer structure, processing-induced microstructural evolution and barrier properties. Additionally, the project will investigate the impact of PO-based adhesive sealant layers, recycling processes, and recycled content on the barrier and mechanical properties of these films. The ultimate objective is to create all-PO high-barrier films with a significant proportion of recycled content.

You will be based in the WMG’s Materials Engineering Centre (MEC) at the University of Warwick. The project is in collaboration with Reckitt a British multinational consumer goods company, and will be led by Prof. Ton Peijs, with access to state-of-the-art polymer processing and characterization facilities.

Essential and Desirable Criteria

A good first degree (2:1 above or equivalent), a postgraduate degree or equivalent professional or research experience from a relevant STEM background (e.g. Materials Science, Chemistry, Engineering, Physics).

Strong analytical capability and interest in materials processing and sustainability.

A background in polymer science and/or polymer processing.

Chemistry (6) Engineering (12) Materials Science (24)

Funding Notes

The studentship is open to eligible home fee students with full awards for 3.5 years. Standard UKRI stipend for 3.5 years (currently £18,622) for home fee students only. Funding is available to eligible Home fee status and UK domicile EU students.

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