Community Research and Development Information Service - CORDIS



Project ID: 642929
Funded under: H2020-EU.1.3.1.

Periodic Reporting for period 1 - SUPRABARRIER (SUPRAmolecular polyolefins as oxygen BARRIER materials)

Reporting period: 2015-01-01 to 2016-12-31

Summary of the context and overall objectives of the project

Addressed problem: The production of the next generation of oxygen-barrier polyolefin materials capable of meeting the current and future demands of society in a sustainable manner will require both new technologies and highly trained scientists. Supramolecular chemistry provides a powerful approach to develop new materials with emerging properties, such as low permeability to oxygen, maintaining easy processing.
Importance for Society: Currently the world is using 28 million tons of plastics for food packaging and 6.8 million tons for healthcare applications including cosmetics, hygienic, packaging and components. At present, these polymers are used in multilayer films or metallized plastic films to decrease their oxygen permeability. These kind of packaging are expensive and present severe recycling problems. Packaging materials with high oxygen barrier are necessary to prevent food decomposition and consequently wastage. Besides its environmental cost, food wastage represents also a loss of economic value. Based on 2009 producer prices on a global scale, the economic cost of the overall amount of food wastage in year 2007 was about 750 billion USD.
The major objectives of research and training within the SUPRABARRIER EID encompass the following:
• To explore the supramolecular approach in order to change the surface/bulk properties of polyolefins keeping intact the original optical properties and mechanical performances
• To gain a deeper understanding of the factors that control oxygen permeability of polyethylene and polypropylene, through iterative cycles of supramolecular design, synthetic modification of pristine polymers and detailed characterizations
• To assess the process impacts on the environment through LCA study
• To train supramolecular and polymer scientists in the design, synthesis and characterization of functional polymeric materials using the tools of supramolecular chemistry
• To offer training in practical polymer science and polymer processing
• To provide the young researchers with in-depth training in the scientific background of this EID through local and global secondments and training modules
• To develop the young researchers’ complementary skills extending beyond research management to include personal transferable skills

Work performed from the beginning of the project to the end of the period covered by the report and main results achieved so far

The research objectives of the period were:
1. PE and PP bulk functionalization with supramolecular units;
2. Plasma treatment of the polyolefin surface and subsequent coating;
3. Data collection of energy consumption and emissions due to the new process phases necessary to modify the polymer structure;
4. Preliminary processability assessment of the functionalized polyolefins.

The training objectives of the period were:
1. Supramolecular chemistry/materials, ranging from fundamental knowledge on supramolecular chemistry, supramolecular dynamics, as well as promising applications in a great variety of fields.
2. Fundamentals on practical polymer science and processing, focussing on the use of supramolecular chemistry to obtain functional polymeric materials
3. Fundamentals on Intellectual Properties Rights
4. Management on projects as well as time during the research

Dissemination activities: 2 invention disclosures (1 Mr Zych and 1 Mr Tellers) were submitted to Internal SABIC process.
Under discussion are the participations of the two ESRs to the following conferences for summer 2017:
1. APME 2017 Advanced Polymers via Macromolecular Engineering
2. 81st Prague Meeting on Macromolecules 2017
3. ISMSC 2017: International Symposium on Macrocyclic and Supramolecular Chemistry
4. European Polymer Federation Congress 2017
Outreach activities: the SUPRABARRIER members (both PIs and ESRs) have been actively involved in the Department Lab open days (Research Nights) and in participation in one exhibition (K-Fair 2016, “The World’s No. I Trade Fair for Plastics and Rubber”, Dusseldorf).

Progress beyond the state of the art and expected potential impact (including the socio-economic impact and the wider societal implications of the project so far)

So far SUPRABARRIER has explored 3 different approaches to impart higher oxygen barrier properties to polyolefins in presence of a high level of humidity (standard working conditions for food packaging):
1. Bulk functionalization of polyethylene with Upy Units
2. Polyolefin surface treatment with plasma and subsequent surface coating
3. Bulk functionalization of polyethylene with velcrands
The preliminary permeability measurements showed that the first two approaches are very promising, while the last one failed. The polyethylene bulk functionalization with velcrands, in fact, increases the amorphous region of the polyolefin, thus decreasing the oxygen barrier.
For the LCA the assessment of the major impact sources for the polyolefin production was performed together with the analysis of the main variables of the supramolecular polyolefin production process.

The two ESRs have been enrolled in the PhD course in Materials Science. They follow a training programme customized to their needs and aspirations. They are involved in a research project that has an interdisciplinary and collaborative nature, being the two PIs from the Academic and Industrial sectors. The monthly skype meetings where the two ESRs are involved are important moments for close interactions with colleagues and they contribute to instill a natural openness to collaboration in the young researchers.
UniPr and SAB continuously encourage the two students to exchange ideas, experiences and skills, by involving them in brain-storming sessions and group meetings.
Mr Zych has already performed his first secondment at the Technische Universiteit of Eindhoven, in the group of Prof. Sijbesma, where he had the possibility to be trained in supramolecular polymer preparation and characterization, and to meet colleagues from different backgrounds and settings, improving his communication skills. The first secondment of Mr Tellers started the 27th of February 2017, while the next secondment of Mr Zych is foreseen for April/May 2017 in the group of Prof. Oren Sherman at Cambridge University. The global secondment will be by the Internal in SABIC Technology Center in Bangalore (INDIA), in September/October 2017. This location was chosen for its strong analytical department, expertise and equipment (e.g NMR, DSC, GPC, Morphology), for its know how and expertise in chemistry scale-up and for its polymer processing facilities. Different culture and way of working will help the two ESRs in expand their cultural awareness and will contribute to their personal growth.
Both the ESRs already attended to lectures and seminars given by experts invited by UniPr.

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