Sustainable polymers for the next generation technologies




Chwatko, Malgorzata

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Many polymers synthesized today suffer from two major faults: non-degradability and lack of sustainability. While some of these polymers are recyclable, the consumer application may not align easily with recycling processes. For example, food contamination makes recycling very difficult, reducing sustainability for many polymer products. Creating degradable polymers is another strategy to improve sustainability. Degradability can be invoked in the material via an introduction of degradable functionalities. One way to accomplish this can be through copolymerization; however, copolymerization is typically limited to structurally similar monomers. In these studies, copolymerization of structurally distinct lactones and epoxides utilizing the classical Vandenberg catalyst was explored. Similarly, copolymerization of carbonates and lactones, epoxides and anhydrides were also explored utilizing the bis(μ-alkoxo)bis(alkylaluminum) catalysts. Sustainability can also be improved by obtaining monomers from sources other than petroleum, such as biological systems. Cells can be engineered to produce various products or to increase production of existing products that are relevant as polymer feedstocks. Another angle to achieve sustainability is through the use of the polymer. For example, utilizing polymers as barrier materials to extend produce shelf-life would be a great benefit. Lastly, sustainability can be achieved through the education of young scholars to be aware of the issues and opportunities in polymer engineering. This dissertation explores the aforementioned topics and provides support for the development of more sustainable polymers with collected data. Through the studies described herein, new polymerization methodologies were established for both sustainable and degradable polymers, and newly designed polymers were applied to the field of polymer electrolytes and plastic packaging


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