Page 11 - PERIODIC Magazine Issue 7
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specific sequence. Recently, the group has combined switchable
                                                              catalysis with the CO2-harnessing method described above
                                                              to synthesise block copolymers incorporating CO2 released in
                                                              earlier reactions.

                                                              Biodegradable polymers for medical applications
                                                              Starting with waste biomass, the Williams group has
                                                              synthesised polymers that are biorenewable, biocompatible
                                                              and biodegradable. These properties are attractive for medical
                                                              applications, and the group has multiple collaborations to
                                                              explore their use in fields such as tissue engineering. A recent
          DPhil student Gloria Rosetto examines a polymer partially made from CO   in the   publication describes the synthesis of amphiphilic copolymers,
          Williams lab.
                                                              meaning they contain both hydrophobic and hydrophilic
              Econic Technologies, a company with 35 employees   sections. This feature drives the polymers to self-assemble
              in which Professor Williams serves as Chief Scientific   into vesicles in water. Because the vesicles are completely
              Officer, was born out of this research. It has successfully   biodegradable, they have exciting potential for controlled drug
              used waste CO2 to make the base material for    delivery.
              polyurethanes, which is used for products ranging
              from shoe soles to home insulation. The economic and
              environmental potential of Econic Technologies has been
              recognised with its receiving over £13 million in funding
              and numerous awards, such as being named a 2019
              Global Cleantech 100 Company.

              Controlled polymerisation of
              monomer mixtures
              Copolymers are made of different monomers, and it
              remains a challenge to control the polymerisation process
              to obtain specific, reproducible products. The Williams
              group has developed a method to switch a single catalyst   Checking polymer samples for degradation under various physiologically relevant
              between reaction states in a mixture of monomers.
              Such “switchable catalysis” has enabled the controlled
              production of copolymers containing up to 27 blocks in a   The future of plastics
                                                              For Professor Williams, improving the sustainability of the
                                                              plastics industry has long been a driving passion. The challenge
                                                              is to develop eco-friendly materials that retain useful properties
                                                              and can be manufactured low cost at a large scale. With growing
                                                              public awareness of plastic pollution, she believes we are at a
                                                              nexus where consumer pressure and fundamental research
                                                              can combine to effect change. In fact, alongside her ESPRC
                                                              fellowship, she will literally be exploring “The Future of Plastics”,
                                                              an aptly-named multidisciplinary project with the Oxford Martin
                                                              School starting in October. Along with fellow project leads
                                                              economist Cameron Hepburn and lawyer Catherine Redgwell,
                                                              Professor Williams will be investigating how chemistry research,
                                                              economic stimuli and legislative frameworks can create, to
                                                              paraphrase Mr. McGuire, a “great[er] future in plastics.” Stay
                                                              tuned to see what that might look like!

          Polymerisation reactions incorporating CO  at 1 bar pressure
                                                          The Magazine of the Department of Chemistry
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