The first research projects being carried out by a consortium of the Dutch Polymer Institute (DPI), Eindhoven University of Technology (TU/e) and the National Council for Scientific and Technological Development of Brazil (CNPq) will start in January. DPI, TU/e and CNPq have approved five proposals for research relating to biopolymers and polyolefins. Eleven PhD students and two Postdocs will conduct the research as part of a transatlantic exchange programme.
Three of the five studies involve developing and finding practical applications for biopolymers. In one of the projects, the researchers will focus on developing new functionalities for vegetable proteins for applications in food and as a means of combating tropical diseases. The researchers in the second project will concentrate on developing bio-based, high-performance polymers on the basis of polylactic acid (PLA) for advanced applications. The third project is devoted to the development and testing of biopolymers with antimicrobial properties for medical applications. The last two projects are dedicated to polyolefins and the researchers will be attempting to develop a new catalyst system with which two types of polyethylene with different molecular weights can be produced simultaneously in the same reactor.
The venture represents DPI's first collaboration with a Brazilian institute in a public-private partnership. The Brazilian researchers will perform part of their work at research institutes affiliated to DPI. According to Jacques Joosten, Managing Director of DPI, the contacts with Brazil (one of the so-called BRIC countries) mark an important step for the institute. "The cooperation with Brazil is extremely valuable for DPI in view of that country's enormous pool of knowledge and experience with regard to the use of biomass-based commodities. The pace of economic growth in the country is driving an intensive search for new products with a higher added value". TU/e also believes the collaboration with Brazil will create plenty of opportunities in view of its Chemical Engineering faculty's focus on Bio-based Materials. Arno Peels, the chairman of TU/e's Executive Board, stresses that this venture is just the start of an intensive partnership with Brazil. This method of collaboration will be evaluated with the Brazilian partners at the end of next year and will then serve as a model for the entire TU/e.