Chemistry professor awarded fellowship to research plastics production

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A leading researcher has been awarded a five-year fellowship to investigate how to make the production of plastics more environmentally friendly.

Professor Charlotte Williams, Professor of Inorganic Chemistry at the University of Oxford, has been awarded a five-year Established Career Fellowship by the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC).

In the UK, the plastics industry employs more than 170,000 people and has an annual sale turnover of £23.5 billion. It is also one of the country’s top 10 exports. Today most of these plastics are sourced from petrochemicals and are not designed for efficient recycling or biodegradation.

The £1.5 million fellowship allows time for Professor Williams and her research team to investigate and develop a recently discovered chemical process – described as “switchable polymer manufacturing” – with a view to making plastics production more environmentally friendly. The long term goal is to investigate how to re-configure polymer manufacturing to produce sustainable, high-value materials.

The researchers will work with a team of industry partners and international academics to develop the science and manufacturing engineering.