Sustainability Cluster

Polymer Sustainability Research


Mission Statement: Polymers, including plastics and rubber, are irreversibly an indispensable part of modern society. However, our current approaches to producing and using plastics and rubber are unsustainable, polluting the planet and eventually exhausting its resources. Researchers at the University of Akron School of Polymer Science and Polymer Engineering are developing new strategies for addressing sustainability by re-imagining what polymers are made from and how they are used, re-used, and disposed of.

Technical Focus: Polymer sustainability is an interdisciplinary subject, and it requires efforts and expertise from a variety of backgrounds. Research at UA’s SPSPE integrates Polymer Chemistry, Polymer Physics, and Polymer Engineering to develop new polymers and improve existing materials. Key subject areas that our researchers investigate include renewable feedstocks, degradable polymers, recycling strategies, and efficient use of plastics. Advances in these areas can reduce the amount of solid waste that ends up in the environment, decrease greenhouse gas emissions, and minimize our dependency on fossil fuels.

Why Akron: The Polymer Program at The University of Akron is uniquely equipped to tackle the multidisciplinary nature of polymer sustainability due to its outstanding student and faculty researchers, state-of-the-art instrument facilities, and industry collaborations. Our program engages in fundamental and applied research through partnerships with companies in the northeast Ohio region and around the world.


  • Dr. Kevin Cavicchi - PET recycling, biobased monomers
  • Dr. Ali Dhinojwala - bio-based structural colors and adhesives; mycelium-based structural materials
  • Dr. James Eagan - catalysis for synthesis of sustainable polymers, plastic recycling, and degradable polymers
  • Dr. Sadhan C. Jana - upcycling of commodity plastics; gels and aerogels from recycled plastics; natural fillers for rubber compounds; additive manufacturing using consumer wastes
  • Dr. Li Jia - catalysis for synthesis of sustainable polymers, rubber recycling, and plastic recycling
  • Dr. Abraham Joy - biodegradable plastics; single use plastic replacements
  • Dr. Fardin Khabaz - self-healing networks, vitrimers, dynamic simulations
  • Dr. Tianbo Liu - metal-oxide catalysts and online monitoring of polymer degradation
  • Dr. Mark D. Soucek
  • Dr. Mesfin Tsige - use of computer simulations for sustainable systems and exploring new methods for plastic upcycling
  • Dr. Junpeng Wang - catalytically depolymerizable polymers; mechanical recycling
  • Dr. Shi-Qing Wang - molecular mechanisms to achieve mechanical ductility in all plastics
  • Dr. Chrys Wesdemiotis - molecular-level characterization of sustainable polymers and their (bio)degradation products
  • Dr. Yu Zhu


Relevant Publications

Degradable Polymers:
  • T. Hsu, J. Zhou, H. Su, B. R. Schrage, C. J. Ziegler, J. Wang. A Polymer with “Locked” Degradability: Superior Backbone Stability and Accessible Degradability Enabled by Mechanophore Installation. J. Am. Chem. Soc. 2020, 142, 2100–2104.
  • Dai, Y.; Luo, J.; Liu, T.; Jia, L. Dual-Site Catalysis for Sustainable Polymers to Replace Current Commodity Polymers – Carbonylative Copolymerization of Ethylene, Ethylene Oxide, and Tetrahydrofuran. Chem. Commun. 2020, DOI: 10.1039/D0CC05657J.
  • Sallam, S.; Luo, Y.; Becker, M.L.; Wesdemiotis, C.  Multidimensional mass spectrometry characterization of isomeric biodegradable polyesters.  Eur. J. Mass Spectrom. 2017, 23, 402-410 (DOI: 10.1177/1469066717711401).
Polymer Recycling:
  • A. Perego, F. Khabaz. Volumetric and Rheological Properties of Vitrimers: A Hybrid Molecular Dynamics and Monte Carlo Simulation Study. Macromolecules 2020, 53, 8406–8416.
  • Y. Sun, X. Yan, H. Liang, G. Bohm, L. Jia. Rubber Recycling: Mending the Interface between Ground Rubber Particles and Virgin Rubber. ACS Appl. Mater. Interfaces 2020¸12, 47957–47965.
  • J.M. Eagan, J. Xu, R. Di Girolamo, C. M. Thurber, C. W. Macosko, A. M. LaPointe, F. S Bates, G. W. Coates. Combining Polyethylene and Polypropylene: Enhanced Performance with PE/iPP Multiblock Polymers. Science. 2017, 355, 814–816.
Biobased Polymers:
  • M. Razavi, S. Wang. Why is Crystalline Poly(lactic acid) Brittle at Room Temperature? Macromolecules 2019, 52, 5429–5441.
  • Echeverri M. Patil A., Hu Z., Shawkey M. D., Gianneschi N. C., Dhinojwala A., “Printing a Wide Gamut of Saturated Structural Colors Using Binary Mixtures, With Applications in Anticounterfeiting”, ACS Appl. Mater. Interfaces 2020, 12, 19882−1988 Link
  • Amal Narayanan, Ying Xu, Ali Dhinojwala, Abraham Joy, “Advances in Photoreactive Tissue Adhesives Derived from Natural Polymers” ChemEngineering 2020, 4, 32 Link
  • Kafouris, D.; Kossivas, F.; Constantinides, C.; Nguyen, N.Q.; Wesdemiotis, C.; Patrickios, C.S.  Biosourced amphiphilic degradable elastomers of poly(glycerol sebacate):  synthesis and network and oligomer characterization.  Macromolecules 2013, 46, 622-630 (DOI: 10.1021/ma3016882).


Dr. James Eagan
Phone: 330-972-7510