The evidence now indicates that we are in the early stages of a
sustainability revolution that will achieve the magnitude of the
Industrial Revolution and the speed of the digital revolution.
Nobel Laureate, Former US Vice President
Over the past century, natural polymers such as rubber from the Hevea brasiliensis tree (the rubber tree or plant) and modified natural polymers such as cellulose acetate have been mainstays of modern life.
However, their prevalence prior to World War II has been outstripped by the advent of modern polymers—petroleum-based compounds that are primarily derived from finite stores of fossil resources.
More than one-half century ago, synthetic polymer production from petrochemicals was in its infancy. Since then, the global production of polymers has increased by more than a factor of 100, while the earth’s population has increased only by a factor of two.
The rapid and continuous growth of the polymer industry has led to a myriad of useful technologies and, unfortunately, staggering levels of synthetic polymer (plastic) trash.
While much of this waste is all too visible, the refuse from degradation-resistant plastic that we don’t routinely encounter (in our oceans, for example) is wreaking ecological damage far and wide.
According to Professor Marc Hillmyer, basic research in the field of sustainable polymers is of paramount importance to tackle this challenge. Polymer scientists and engineers have a shared responsibility to help reverse this harmful course and more carefully consider the origins and fates of the materials they study.
“The challenge is all the more daunting,” he notes, “because polymers do and will continue to play a significant and positive role in modern society, and we cannot compromise on performance when developing materials for the future.
Join us October 1, when Professor Hillmyer will highlight the work being conducted in the National Science Foundation Center for Sustainable Polymers (headquartered at the University of Minnesota), where today’s research discoveries will undoubtedly lead to the packaging, construction, household, clothing, automobile, and energy materials of tomorrow.
Marc Hillmyer, PhD, California Institute of Technology, is a Distinguished University Teaching Professor and the McKnight Presidential Endowed Chair in Chemistry, College of Science and Engineering, University of Minnesota, where he leads a research group focused on the synthesis and self-assembly of multifunctional polymers.
Hillmyer also directs the Center for Sustainable Polymers, a National Science Foundation Center for Chemical Innovation that is headquartered at the University.
In addition to his teaching and research, Hillmyer served as the associate editor for the American Chemical Society’s professional journal Macromolecules from 2008–2017. He is currently the journal’s editor-in-chief.
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Headliners takes place monthly, October through May (no event in January), at the Continuing Education and Conference Center on the University's Saint Paul campus. Dates for the 2020−21 season are October 1, November 5, December 3, February 4, March 4, April 1, and May 6. Individual event tickets are $20. Subscribe to the series by October 1 and get tickets to all seven events for $90. (A savings of $50!)
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