Design Principles and Synthetic Methodologies for Intrinsically Circular Polymers and Biodegradable Plastics
Presented by Eugene Chen, Colorado State University
Synthetic polymers have fueled modern economies and become indispensable for modern life and the global economy. However, nearly all today's polymers were designed and developed for cost, performance, durability, and disposability, rather than for reuse, repurposing, recovery, or degradability. The failure to address the end-of-life issues of today's plastics has thus accelerated depletion of finite natural resources, caused severe worldwide plastics pollution problems, and resulted in enormous energy and materials value loss to the economy. Thus, the design of next-generation polymers has to consider their end-of-life issues and establish closed-loop lifecycles towards a circular economy. In addition, synthetic methodologies and catalytic routes have to be developed to effectively and expediently deconstruct post-consumer polymers with high selectivity for clean monomer recovery and polymer reproduction. Centering on addressing the above identified challenges, this presentation will first introduce fundamental principles for designing circular polymers with not only intrinsic chemical recyclability but also tunable thermal and mechanical properties. Next, the development of catalytic routes will be described for the synthesis of designer monomers, circular polymers, and biodegradable plastics, as well as the deconstruction of the circular polymers back to the monomers in pure state and quantitative selectivity under energy-efficient, cost-effective (de)polymerization conditions. Overall, the design and realization of such circular polymers must address energy cost, depolymerization selectivity, and depolymerizability/performance tradeoffs.
Eugene Chen earned his Ph.D. degree in 1995 from The University of Massachusetts, Amherst. After a postdoctoral stint at Northwestern University, he joined Dow Chemical in 1997, where he was promoted to Project Leader. He moved to Colorado State in 2000, where currently he is a University Distinguished Professor, the John K. Stille Endowed Chair in Chemistry, and the Millennial Professor of Polymer Science & Sustainability. His current research is centered on polymer science, sustainable chemistry, and homogenous catalysis. Selected recent honors and awards include: Excellence in Commercialization Award in 2012 by the Colorado Cleantech Industry Association; Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science in 2012; The Presidential Green Chemistry Challenge Award by EPA, in partnership with ACS in 2015; and 2019 Arthur Cope Scholar Mid-Career Award by the ACS.
Hosted by Jack Norton
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