Proteins for Sustainable Polymers

Engineering proteins and polypeptides into resins can lead to a new generation of sustainable and environmentally compatible alternatives to synthetic plastics. We aim to develop novel protein based materials and solutions to produce value added products from diverse protein sources. Current efforts will potentially increase utilization of certain waste streams that would otherwise be discarded, and introduce new properties into existing materials. Examples of applications include the development of protein-based non-isocyanate polyurethane-like materials, packaging materials with antioxidant properties, and recycling of used rubber. We are continually exploring new strategies to incorporate proteins into materials through different protein modifications, polymerization chemistries, and processing methods. A combination of techniques including spectroscopy, microscopy, scattering, mechanical testing, and rheology are being used to investigate the structure-property relationships in these materials.