Plastic pollution and low levels of recycling are driving increased awareness about the unsustainable use of plastics in our modern society. Shifting our current linear system to a more circular one requires optimizing materials and systems for specific end-of-life fates. In this talk I will contextualize the ‘plastics problem’ and describe several directions of research that contribute toward resolving it. We will focus in large part on the synthesis and characterization of high-performance elastomers from potentially bio-based (macro)molecules, with specific emphasis on probing the biodegradation of these elastomers in composts and natural environments. From these projects we will transition into my current work on systems-level challenges in plastics and the mechanical recycling of commodity plastics, with a focus on novel functional additives that can help retain the desirable properties of plastic through several cycles of reprocessing.
Guilhem was born in Paris, France and obtained a B.S. in Chemistry from California Polytechnic State University in San Luis Obispo. He went on to get a Ph.D. in Chemistry at the University of Minnesota under the supervision of Prof. Marc Hillmyer, during which time he focused on dynamic networks, polyesters, and biodegradation. After a brief post-doctoral appointment at Argonne National Laboratory working on anti-biofouling polymers, Guilhem moved on to a research fellow position in the Sustainable Materials Innovation Hub at the University of Manchester. His current focus is on translational research for plastics recycling as well as working through systems-level material sustainability challenges with SMEs in Greater Manchester.
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