EPSRC logo

Details of Grant 

EPSRC Reference: EP/C531744/1
Title: Hydrophobically Ion-Paired Enzymes: Cleaner Polymerisation Strategies in Supercritical Fluids, Fluorous Phases and Silicone Oils
Principal Investigator: Thomas, Professor NR
Other Investigators:
Howdle, Professor S Poliakoff, Professor M
Researcher Co-Investigators:
Project Partners:
Department: Sch of Chemistry
Organisation: University of Nottingham
Scheme: Standard Research (Pre-FEC)
Starts: 15 August 2005 Ends: 14 February 2008 Value (£): 131,968
EPSRC Research Topic Classifications:
Chemical Synthetic Methodology Materials Characterisation
Materials Synthesis & Growth Reactor Engineering
EPSRC Industrial Sector Classifications:
Related Grants:
Panel History:  
Summary on Grant Application Form
The modern world is one that is dependent on synthetic polymers used as plastics, coatings and lubricants. These include the polyesters and nylons found in clothes, the clingfilm and polycarbonates used to wrap sandwiches and microwave meals, the plastics used in the body shells of Smart and Formula 1 racing cars as well as TV's, computer cases and other domestic appliances. There is a continual demand for polymers with new properties whether it is better resistance to hard impact (Kevlar (poly-paraphenylene terephthalamide) used in bulletproof vests and motorcycle helmets), increased elasticity (basketball trainers), biodegradability (reduced long-term environmental impact on disposal), better electrical resistance or a compatibility with the human body (bone replacement and plastic surgery). In response to meet mankind's demands for these products a worldwide polymer industry has developed over the last 80 years. The processes currently used to produce polyesters, polyurethanes and other polymers such as the non-stick polyfluoropolymer Teflon require large quantities of halocarbon and aromatic solvents, high temperatures and the use of poisonous catalysts and additives based on metals such as tin, aluminium or zinc. Our research aims to develop alternative processes for producing existing and new polymers using procedures that will have a significantly lower impact on the environment through reductions in the energy necessary to produce the polymers and in the quantity and biodegradability of the chemical waste generated. To achieve this we propose to use enzymes (biological catalysts) in place of the toxic metal catalysts. Employment of these should significantly reduce the temperature of the polymerisation to close to ambient conditions. Because the reactions are necessarily conducted in the absence of water, or under low water conditions, the enzyme will be modified by hydrophobically ion pairing it so that it forms a solution with the solvents employed. The choice of solvent investigated is limited to supercritical carbon dioxide and a range of fluorous and silicone oils. Whilst carbon dioxide is considered to be a greenhouse gas and has been implicated in climate change when it escapes into the atmosphere, it has significant advantages within a industrial reactor in that it is easy to separate from other materials and hence be recycled by a reduction pressure and trapping in a separate reservoir, something that is not true with hydrocarbon solvents. Carbon dioxide also has good plasticizer properties and can be used as a substitute for diethylhexyl adipate, a plasticizer that previously caused concern when it was found that it leached (in very small amounts) into food from certain containers when microwaved. Enzymes are composed of peptide chains that are readily degraded biologically in the environment. Care has also be taken with the choice of substrates to be used so that they can be prepared cheaply and easily and minimal chemical waste is generated during their preparation or during the polymerisation steps.
Key Findings
This information can now be found on Gateway to Research (GtR) http://gtr.rcuk.ac.uk
Potential use in non-academic contexts
This information can now be found on Gateway to Research (GtR) http://gtr.rcuk.ac.uk
Description This information can now be found on Gateway to Research (GtR) http://gtr.rcuk.ac.uk
Date Materialised
Sectors submitted by the Researcher
This information can now be found on Gateway to Research (GtR) http://gtr.rcuk.ac.uk
Project URL:  
Further Information:  
Organisation Website: http://www.nottingham.ac.uk