CSCT Case Study: Plastic from waste sugars and carbon dioxide

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An exciting project from the Centre for Sustainable Chemical Technologies where they use the latest development in catalysis and synthetic chemistry to transform sugars, nature’s building block, into renewable and degradable alternatives to petrochemical materials.

They are developing new, sustainable catalysts, processes and renewable building blocks for polymers such as polyesters (including PET, polylactide, poly (ethylene) furanoate, PEF), polyurethanes (PU) and polycarbonates (PC) which are used as commodity plastics and for high value biomedical applications.

They have, for example, developed a synthesis of cyclic carbonate monomers that replaces the use of toxic phosgene derivatives by carbon dioxide at low pressures and ambient temperature, and makes the process a lot safer. The conversion of CO2 to valuable products also
works towards reducing atmospheric greenhouse gas emissions.

They have used this methodology to produce a series of new monomers made from natural sugars (but which do not come from edible crops), for the synthesis of BPA-free polycarbonates. These renewable plastics are transparent and particularly resistant to heat, and they can be degraded back into carbon dioxide and sugars when needed by the action of enzymes, which makes them promising sustainable alternatives to petrochemical materials.

In collaboration with industrial partners, they are currently investigating their use for biodegradable packaging. Between Chemistry and Chemical Engineering teams, we are also exploring their potential for regenerative medicine applications.

With an ever-growing population, there is an increasing demand for plastics. Sugars are the main building blocks of nature: their abundance, diversity and biocompatibility are ideal for the development of a new generation of sustainable, renewable plastics, that would be price and performance competitive with traditional petrochemical materials. And because they are biodegradable, they will not contribute to growing ocean and landfill waste.”

Dr Antoine Buchard

For further information and to review Key Research Papers and to find out about the partners and CSCT students involved with this project please visit the CSCT website case study page here.