Preventing excess waste is a challenge and the need to recycle and produce sustainable materials is increasing. ERC-funded project PARADIGM could influence the design of future plastic-like materials that would break down in the environment the way natural materials do. This innovative technology will also be used for body repair by creating materials that mimic our native tissues and organs.
In an ideal world, all materials that we synthetically manufacture would be environmentally-friendly, biodegrading naturally leaving nothing toxic in the soils and if possible, it would actually improve the soil as it breaks down.
The production of new sustainable materials could have direct applications for agriculture, as by-products could improve the soil, and also offers numerous opportunities for medical research for example in tissue engineering as biomaterials are required that are safe to place within our bodies and act as our natural tissues do. This innovative research will no doubt raise the quality of all of our lives.
Professor Albertsson’s aim is to create a new generation of materials that interacts with the environment differently. The degradation can be controlled without leaving dangerous long-lasting compounds behind. These new materials will be close to those molecules seen in nature, and will be made up of minuscule particles held together with molecular bonds of different strengths, making it easier to break down into smaller molecules.
Professor Ann-Christine Albertsson is a leading expert in polymer science. Her team not only studies biodegradable and renewable polymers but also produces and modifies existing ones to test their ability to biodegrade. This ERC-funded project looks into the fundamental research of designing and modifying special polymers from their constituent monomers
The materials, surfaces and molecular bonds will be studied closely using the most up-to-date scientific characterization techniques to observe how the structures are created, how the environment reacts with these polymers and to ensure that the materials degrade in a manner that does not have an adverse effect on the environment. These versatile customized structures should help our understanding of the way polymeric materials are designed for sustainable commodity plastics and tissue engineering.