Polymer crystallization in melt-processable PVA
PI: Assender, Hazel
Rapid solutions to the plastic waste problem (~490Mt/yr of plastic is produced globally: only 6% is recycled (OECD)) are being sought across the packaging industry, with huge markets in food, personal, and health-care being impacted, and major brands committing to challenging short-term targets for change. Alternative packaging materials, suitable for recycling or biodegradation, have not yet been optimised to the extent of the current market leading materials (that were developed over decades) which contribute to the plastic waste problems. Central to this are key properties such as strength, gas barrier and transparency, all of which are dominated by the crystallization behaviour of the polymer during processing. In order to optimise incoming materials systems rapidly to allow them to compete commercially, we need to have the tools to better understand the crystallization behaviour of these materials. One such polymer of interest is poly(vinyl alcohol) (PVA), which is already produced in industrial volumes for adhesives, coatings, sizing and biomedical applications, but has the potential as a melt-processable material for application in packaging technologies. We have established the methodology for direct imaging of the crystallinity in PVA, and this project will apply this new capability in the development of processing and properties of a thermally processable form of PVA for a range packaging materials that will break down in water. Such studies are aimed at accelerating the market impact of such environmentally beneficial materials.