Bio-inspired Functional Materials from Natural Materials
ARI has expanded its research endeavors to include using wood- and plant-derived materials to design novel materials inspired by biological materials. We are integrating fundamental sciences into polymer engineering to advance these materials for real-world applications. The objective is to utilize natural materials to develop structural and functional polymers to improve health and environment quality, and to combat climate change and energy shortage. A key focus is valorizing accessible structural and chemistry characteristics of lignin and cellulose to transform them into value-added materials for sensors and soft robotics. The newly designed materials can response to external stimuli to change their shape, self-heal, and self-manipulate their thermomechanical properties.
This group also works on valorization of renewable materials to develop sustainable 3D-printable polymers and composites, functional fibers, and high-performance elastomers. Plastics are very versatile materials due to their light weight, easy processibility, and durability. However, plastic wastes have caused critical global environmental issues. Every year, there are around 150 million tons of solid plastics discarded globally. Less than 10% of overall plastic waste is recycled, while more than 90% goes to landfills. This group aims to employ lignocellulosic biomass as a feedstock to substitute for petrochemicals. Additionally, novel approaches to upcycle plastic wastes using reactive melt extrusion which is widely applied in the plastic industry are being designed.
An example of a shape-programmable and -recoverable polymer developed at ARI:
An example of a material having adaptive mechanical properties developed at ARI: