Push for Bio-based Polymers

Wednesday, July 29, 2020

NSF awards UC Santa Barbara, UCLA $23.7 million for collaboration focused on using natural building blocks to make new materials.

Synthetic polymers — think plastic and its chemical cousins — are among the foundations of modern life. The ubiquity of such petroleum-based materials has everything to do with their combination of strength, flexibility and chemical inertness, the last being a characteristic that also makes them durable. Given the environmental impact of plastics and the fact that petroleum deposits are finite, one grand challenge is to develop new sustainable bio-based, high-performance alternatives to petroleum-based polymers. Harnessing nature to create these materials will be an enormous undertaking, requiring a dramatic change in how polymers are made.

To support such an effort, the National Science Foundation (NSF) has named UC Santa Barbara and UCLA joint partners in the BioPolymers, Automated Cellular Infrastructure, Flow, and Integrated Chemistry: Materials Innovation Platform (BioPACIFIC MIP). The five-year, $23.7 million collaboration is part of the NSF Materials Innovation Platforms (MIP) Program and has a scientific methodology reflecting the broad goals of the Materials Genome Initiative, which aims to develop new materials “twice as fast at a fraction of the cost.”

“Our goal is to be the bridge between fundamental and applied research, driving collaboration with industry and establishing Southern California as an economic driver for biomaterials research and innovation,” said UCSB materials professor Hawker, director of the CNSI and co-PI of BioPACIFIC MIP. read more


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