Sustainable Materials – Minerals, Plastics Recycling, and 3D-printing

Faculty: Drs. Rufina Alamo, Hoyong Chung and Subramanian Ramakrishnan

Managing the excess plastic waste production is of a present concern. An emerging technology for reducing plastic waste is the production of “chemically recyclable” polymers. In the laboratory of Prof. Alamo we are studying biosourced and biodegradable alternatives that could be potential substitutes for the most common, difficult to recycle, petroleum-based polymers. For example, long-spaced aliphatic polyesters are biodegradable and feature close-loop recyclability. We are studying how under controlled processing, the thermal and mechanical properties of newly synthesized sustainable polyesters may reach the properties of injection molded and compression blown films of polyethylenes used in packaging.

The field of Sustainable Materials, particularly polymers, plays a crucial role in addressing various challenges in materials science, ranging from environmental concerns to waste reduction, raw resource conservation, and the promotion of a circular economy. We are at the forefront of scientific breakthroughs, tackling these pressing issues through the development of innovative polymers derived from biomass lignin, greenhouse gases, and other novel renewable raw resources.

Our research is inherently interdisciplinary, allowing us to create sophisticated chemical structures for polymers tailored to high-tech applications, including biomedical fields, battery materials, upcyclable materials, aerodynamic materials, and stimulus-responsive smart materials. We believe in the potential of these novel and sustainable materials, and our work extends to conducting comprehensive studies on structure-property relationships to further advance their applications.

In addition to our focus on sustainable polymer synthesis, we are actively involved in exploring new 3D printing technologies using innovative materials, efficient plastics recycling methods, and the development of mineral-containing functional materials. These initiatives contribute to enhancing sustainability in the fields of Chemical and Biomedical Engineering.