Sustainable Plastics from Molecular Building Block - SPE 20

Whereas commodity plastics unquestionably pose a sustainability issue, it will outline how alternatives with similar properties can be obtained by the controlled and reversible assembly of simple molecular building blocks. This keynote is part of the Innovation Symposium of Swiss Plastics Expo 20.

Plastics are ubiquitous in our daily life, and estimates suggest that the developed world uses ca. 60 kg per person per year. The number is expected to increase, and innumerable products rely on the unique and versatile properties of plastic materials. However, only a fraction is reused or recycled, and new solutions towards more sustainable materials are therefore urgently needed.

Biomaterials are a great source of inspiration in this context. Thus, Nature obtains materials with extraordinary properties by combining simple building blocks through non-covalent association and careful arrangement into hierarchical structures. Employing similar principles, supramolecular polymers have been developed by the assembly of monomeric units equipped with binding motifs that form directional, non-covalent interactions. Suitable stimuli disrupt the reversible and dynamic linkage, which leads to a (temporary) disassembly into monomers and renders these materials intrinsically suitable as a more sustainable alternative.

However, the bulk mechanical properties of such materials can so far not compete with commodity polymers, impeding the replacement of these plastics with more sustainable supramolecular materials. Promising recent results now show that this issue can be overcome, as we show that the mechanical properties of supramolecular materials can be pushed far beyond the previously accessible range by co-assembly of suitable individual components.


Short CV

Dr. Stephen Schrettl studied Chemistry and received a PhD in Materials Science from Ecole Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne. He is now a Research Group Leader at the Adolphe Merkle Institute of the University of Fribourg and works on addressing both fundamental and application-oriented challenges in materials science by a chemistry-driven approach. The current efforts combine chemical synthesis, polymer chemistry, and self-assembly methods to control the structure and function of novel materials.


This keynote is part of the Innovation Symposium of the Swiss Plastics Expo

At the Innovation Symposium, you will receive the latest specialist knowledge on 16 topics relating to plastics and plastics processing on two stages. Keynote speakers will report on science, technology and industry. The showcase presentations will give you background information on exciting projects.

Participation in the Innovation Symposium is included in the fair ticket.