Study on Sustainable Chemistry Achieved NSF Award

Published Date : Feb 20, 2015

Mr. Jeffery Byers, an assistant professor of chemistry, whose research aims at the development of sustainable chemistry that includes the catalytic synthesis of new, eco-friendly polymers, has earned a CAREER award from the National Science Foundation, the most prestigious grant of the agency for junior faculty.

The US$655,000 grant for 5 years will support Byers’ project titled, “Iron Polymerization Catalysis for the Synthesis of High Performance Degradable Polymers”, which is an proposal of his laboratory to translate bio-renewable lactic acid into usable and biodegradable plastic materials.

Mr. Byers, is an organic/organo-metallic chemist. He examines under-developed chemistry, which uses non-noble metals predominately to find useful processes in areas such as materials science, organic chemistry, and inorganic chemistry. A major target of the Byers lab is the perfection of novel techniques to synthesize new types of polymers that can be used in chemical engineering, biomedical design, and sustainable chemistry.

Byers has innovated simple catalysts applying iron, which creates polylactic acid from renewable resources. The goal is to create a polymer, which is highly biodegradable, still strong enough to be applied in products that are used on daily basis, such as plastic bottles. 

But before polylactic acid can be utilized on a larger scale, he told, the fragile nature of the material needs to be resolute. The grant will support the work of the laboratory to expand the physical properties of polylactic acid.