Thermoplastic elastomers are a ubiquitous class of tough commodity plastics that combine the flexibility and recoverability of an elastomer with the strength of a thermoplastic. Traditionally, these linear polymers comprise non-renewable petroleum-based monomers. While bio-based and biodegradable thermoplastic elastomers have been developed, they are currently more expensive to produce and generally provide worse performance than petroleum-based analogues, and thus they are economically unattractive.
The aim of this research is to use asymmetric star polymer architecture (instead of linear) in combination with renewable, bio-based monomers to drastically improve their utility as thermoplastic elastomers. Implementing this non-linear architecture should result in sustainable thermoplastic elastomers that outperform the mechanical properties of linear, petroleum-based analogues, making these green plastics economically feasible.
Advisor: Christopher Bates