Materials Substitution


EPSRC Platform Grant

Research Team

Professor James Clark, Professor Michael North, Dr Thomas Farmer, Dr Ian Ingram, Dr Rob McElroy

External Collaborators

Prof Charlotte Williams (Imperial College London), Prof Adam Harvey (Newcastle), Prof Nilay Shah (Imperial College London) as well as an industrial advisory panel.


Currently around 300 million tonnes of synthetic polymers are produced globally each year. After fuels, polymer production consumes more petroleum than any other industry, vastly outstripping solvents, pharmaceuticals and all other chemical products. Many of these materials are also produced using energy intensive processes and hazardous reagents. Clearly, therefore, the development of more sustainable and bio-derived alternatives to these materials has the potential to have a very significant impact on climate change and the depletion of petroleum reserves.

The materials substitution project aims to develop green routes from bio-based platform molecules to polymerisable monomers and then to develop a wide variety of polymers from these including polyalkenes, polyethers, polyesters, polycarbonates and polyurethanes. Several of these plastics are derived from the combination of carbon dioxide gas with the bio-based monomers and as such represent both carbon capture via plants from the original biomass but also the potential to capture waste carbon dioxide from energy production directly.

With our collaborators in other universities the routes from biomass to polymer are subject to both lifecycle and technoeconomic analysis in order to determine the cost-effectiveness and environmental impact of the materials in order to guide the development work towards methods and materials that offer genuine sustainability improvements over conventional plastics and have the potential to be economically viable.