Internship Depolymerization of specialty polymers: towards valorizable functional platform molecules
Polymers are omnipresent in modern life. Their recycling at the end of their life cycle is becoming a major challenge from an environmental and societal point of view. Reprocessing or mechanical recycling are potential solutions but the chemical valorization of end-life polymer products has emerged as a more attractive alternative and is expected to develop in the coming years. Indeed, it is in principle the ideal way of recycling since it consists in chemically decomposing macromolecules in order to obtain molecules of lower molecular weights that could be reused as feedstock in a more sustainable circular economy loop.
In the present research project, two high performance specialty polymers of Solvay will be considered. The multidisciplinary project aims at developing innovative routes to depolymerize these polymers merging chemistry, mechanochemistry and catalysis. Mechanochemistry is a non-thermal technology which has been known for a long time to activate strong covalent bonds by external mechanical forces. Recently, mechanocatalysis has emerged as a promising concept to break-down polymer chains and been successfully applied to the deconstruction of biopolymers such as cellulose or lignin. Mechanical forces (e.g. by ball milling) provide energy to the catalyst through pressure and frictional heating allowing reactions to take place without the need of external heat and potentially under solvent-free conditions. Advanced characterizations of polymer and of depolymerization products (separation from GC or LC (/MS), structure/microstructure from IR/NMR, molar mass distribution from SEC, thermal properties from DSC…) will be important aspects of the project.
Applicants should have a Bachelor Degree in Chemistry.
Knowledge of organic chemistry is required.
Notions in catalysis as well as in polymer synthesis and characterization of polymers would be considered an asset.
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