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October 27, 2020

Huber and Zavala will investigate biodegradable polymers with new grant

Written By: Jason Daley

Two chemical and biological engineering professors at the University of Wisconsin-Madison are part of a new $2.5 million grant from the Department of Energy to develop biodegradable polymers that can replace the polyethylene currently used in packaging applications.

Richard L. Antoine Professor George Huber and Baldovin-DaPra Associate Professor Victor Zavala are investigators on the project called Designing Recyclable Biomass Biomass-Based Polyesters, one of 12 selected by the DOE as part of a program called the Plastics Innovation Challenge. The program funds projects to improve existing recycling processes that break plastics into chemical building blocks which can then be used to produce new plastic products. The hope is to develop new technologies that will make the U.S. a world leader in plastic recycling and help reduce plastic pollution in the environment.

Wisconsin-based companies Amcor and Pyran are partners in the grant, as well as the forest products company Stora Enso, the University of Oklahoma, Colorado State University and the National Renewable Energy Laboratory.

Huber is the director and Zavala is a participant in a new Department of Energy-funded Multi-University Center on Chemical Upcycling of Waste Plastics that is investigating novel ways of breaking down and upcycling various types of plastic waste.