The core research efforts of the Green Materials Laboratory target improved sustainability of plastics by both the preparation of new catalysts that facilitate polymer synthesis and the development of new-to-the-world polymers and materials. Understanding and minimizing the environmental impact of plastics is a major growth area in both academic and industrial research. However, for real impact and growth, these polymers must be both environmentally and economically sustainable. We thus work with the philosophy that new polymers must offer a step-change in one of two areas: (i) they must compete with existing materials on performance and price while transforming sustainability or (ii) are functional polymers which can do something no other material can do. Our research group now spans both of these important targets, with an increasingly collaborative research portfolio across chemistry, physics, engineering and biomedicine.
Our expertise is rooted in control over two polymerisations: ring-opening polymerisations, especially in the design of new cyclic esters to target functional polyesters, and controlled radical polymerisations, especially iron-mediated atom transfer radical polymerisation. These fundamental studies are paired with more applied projects, such as developing intrinsic high-refractive index polymers with Samsung, responsive block copolymers with GSK, new polymer/carbon composites for miRNA detection with Axis Shield, inexpensive water purification polymers with Industrial Chemicals Limited, and polymer composite delivery vehicles with Itaconix and GSK. It is this ability to work on fundamental polymer science and catalysis alongside industrially driven materials science research that makes research in this field so exciting. Our group views collaboration as an integral part of our foundation, using a community approach to help deliver impact from our key discoveries, from fundamental academic pursuits to patentable impact-driven projects.