EPSRC logo

Details of Grant 

EPSRC Reference: EP/Y008316/1
Title: A new class of adhesive for a zero-waste economy
Principal Investigator: Geoghegan, Professor M
Other Investigators:
Novakovic, Dr K Pickert, Professor V
Researcher Co-Investigators:
Dr A Sierra Romero
Project Partners:
Biffa plc Nidec Control Techniques Ltd Scott Bader Company Ltd
Department: Sch of Engineering
Organisation: Newcastle University
Scheme: Standard Research
Starts: 22 November 2023 Ends: 21 November 2026 Value (£): 768,796
EPSRC Research Topic Classifications:
Manufacturing Machine & Plant
EPSRC Industrial Sector Classifications:
Related Grants:
Panel History:
Panel DatePanel NameOutcome
15 Jun 2023 Adventurous manufacturing round 2 follow on prioritisation panel Announced
Summary on Grant Application Form
In our successful proposal in the Adventurous Manufacturing round 2 call, we proposed a scalable, inexpensive, commodity materials-based water-based reversible adhesive. This glue needed to be stable for periods of many months and easily applied by the end user. This was achieved and a UK patent was submitted (P340927GB) a year after the project start. The technology is extremely simple; we used emulsion polymerization to synthesize polymer nanoparticles. These were stabilized with polyelectrolytes, either physically adsorbed to, or polymerized from, the nanoparticles. Polyelectrolytes are polymers that are either positively (polycations) or negatively (polyanions) charged. This water-based emulsion forms a film, just like a paint. When a surface coated with a polyanion-stabilized emulsion is brought into contact with another surface coated with a polycation-stabilized emulsion there is good adhesion. This adhesion further improves when the films dry, and, unusually for a water-based adhesive, does not fail in moist and humid environments. However, as intended, the bond does fail in an acidic or alkaline environment. This creates a unique concept in adhesive technologies because the adhesion can be made to fail on demand, which is an important concept for recycling. Furthermore, this is neither a structural adhesive (based on covalent bonds) nor a pressure-sensitive adhesive, and is therefore an entirely new class of glue, which we deem an electrostatic adhesive.

The purpose of this proposal is to develop the technology in the following ways: (i) increase the versatility of the technology by administering it as a spray rather than a paint; (ii) increase the speed of debonding by patterning the surface(s) or by reducing the pH difference from neutral at which bonding fails; (iii) developing fully environmentally friendly materials for use in the adhesive; and (iv) making the adhesive conducting so that it can be applied to e-waste, and, in particular, the recycling of printed circuit boards. As part of this fourth work package, the glue will also be adapted for thermal heat management tasks. Electronic components often reach elevated temperatures, and a glue with good thermal conduction that can adhere a heat sink and remain stable at temperatures of ~70 degrees C will be developed. A fifth work package will involve testing the electronic and thermal reversible glue in real-world environments.

Some work on the first two of these work packages will be performed before the start of the project, and some work demonstrating the feasibility of an adhesive that is more environmentally friendly than the first formulations has already been performed, e.g., through the addition of epoxidized soybean oil to the formulations. The fourth and fifth work packages represent an entirely new departure for this technology.

The challenges facing us are due to this being a disruptive (step-change) technology, and because it is difficult to convince manufacturers to adapt their processes, we need to adapt ours to work with current processes. This is certainly the case for the bottle-labelling industry, which we have initially targeted, and it may also be needed in other industries. By the end of the grant (September 2026), our new glue will be commercially viable for use in industries working in areas such as labelling and packaging, specialist parts (e.g., car manufacture), and electronics.
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.ncl.ac.uk