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Biobased plastics for a circular economy

  • TITLE: Biobased plastics for a circular economy 

  • HOST: Montanuniversität Leoben (Austria)  

  • MAIN SUPERVISOR: Prof. dr. Thomas Lucyshyn (MUL)  

  • CO-SUPERVISOR: Prof. dr. Peter Ragaert (UG) and Prof. dr. Kim Ragaert (UG)  

  • START DATE: 01.05.2020

  • DURATION: 36 months

  • REQUIRED DEGREE: MSc in Engineering (or equivalent) - specialization on polymers - MSc in Materials Science (or equivalent) - specialization on polymers  


    • Profound knowledge in thermoplastic polymer processing (compounding, film extrusion, injection molding, blow molding, thermoforming) 

    • Profound knowledge in processing related material characterization of thermoplastic polymers (rheological and thermodynamic behavior)

    • Basic knowledge in measurement technology and data acquisition  

    • Basic knowledge in polymer chemistry

    • Basic knowledge in polymer physics and application relevant characterization techniques (mechanical, optical, thermal properties, gas and water permeability, sealing properties)

    • Team and communication skills  

    • Ability to work on own initiative and self dependent  

    • German language skills advantageous

  • DESCRIPTION: Biobased plastics are an alternative source of plastic products, specifically for food packaging applications. Polyhydroxyalkanoates (PHA), mainly polyhydroxybutyrate (PHB), are already in use for such purpose, but so far hardly any research has been published regarding the potential of mechanical recycling for this material family. Processing of virgin biobased polymers such as PHB is already challenging due to issues with thermal stability. The realization of a strategy for mechanical recycling of such materials with then inhomogeneous material properties is the main focus of this PhD topic and represents a further step towards circular economy for this material class.  

  • OBJECTIVES: The objective is to investigate the suitability of biobased plastics (with focus on polyhydroxyalkanoates (PHAs) for food packaging) for mechanical recycling instead of landfill or composting in order to establish circularity for this material family as well. For that purpose, the influence of the processing and reprocessing of bioplastics on its application properties for food packaging has to be investigated scientifically. Furthermore, suitable strategies for upcycling of used bioplastics with preferably biobased additives have to be developed.  

  • PLANNED SECONDMENTS: UG for characterization of different processed PHA products toward food packaging (M23-M25); UG for characterizationof mechanically recycled PHA products toward food packaging (M37-M39). Pack4Food for getting insight into different requirements for food packaging materials (M22); Kruschitz Plastics&Recycling GmbH to get an insight into whole plastics recycling process including sorting, compounding, etc. (M30)

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