Improving the performance of flexible packaging adhesives

The food industry uses a variety of flexible packaging materials. Many are made of multiple layers of polymers – some of which are metallised and some of which are bonded using an appropriate adhesive. The project will aim to improve the performance of laminates to increase the longevity of the product.

Start date
1 October 2019
3.5 years
Application deadline
Funding source
Jointly funded by the EPSRC CDT in MiNMaT and Huntsman
Funding information

Stipend of £17,000 pa – all fees met by the University.

Applications accepted all year round. The Centre reserves the right to withdraw the advert if a suitable candidate is found.

Start date: October 2019


This project is in collaboration with Huntsman Polyurethanes based in Everberg Belgium.  Polyurethanes are used in many technological applications ranging from adhesives for a variety of products to foams for furniture and sandwich panels. This project concerns the use of a polyurethane adhesive used in the manufacture of a range of packagings for foodstuffs. The substrates to be bonded are a range of very thin polymer films, some of which are metallised. The investigation will seek to study a number of aspects related to the adhesion and performance of such polyurethane/polymer film bonds. In particular a study of the fundamentals  of adhesion between polyurethanes and isocyanates (one of the pre-cursors used in polyurethane production) and polymer films and inks used for printing on such films. The manner in which the cure process may enhance or disrupt such adhesion is crucial to performance, as all systems undergo multiple cure stages  during laminate manufacture. Other aspects that will be investigated will be the barrier properties of the laminate, particularly the glue line as a result of process parameters, and the fidelity of adhesion achieved on exposure to different environments (temperature humidity and liquids encountered in food packaging).

The main analytical techniques to be used in this work are the surface analysis methods of X-ray photoelectron spectroscopy and (XPS) and time-of-flight secondary ion mass spectrometry (ToF-SIMS). The Surface Analysis Laboratory at the University of Surrey is superbly equipped for work of this sort and has specialised in the application of XPS and ToF-SIMS to adhesion investigations for more than 40 years. Our collaborations with Huntsman PU date back more than a decade.

The project will involve visits to Huntsman PU’s laboratories and there is an expectation that the successful candidate will present their work at international conferences relevant to adhesion and surface analysis research.

Related links
Huntsman EPSRC Centre for Doctoral Training in Micro- and NanoMaterials and Technologies

Eligibility criteria

UK/EU students are invited to apply; we are not funded for international students.

This project requires a First, Upper Second, or merit at Masters in a physical sciences subject.

You will preferably be a chemist or chemical engineer with interests in organic polymers, adhesion, surface analysis, environmental condition impacts on polymers.

You should be highly motivated, curious and proactive, and an enthusiastic reader of scientific literature.

How to apply

Please contact the Centre Manager, Noelle Hartley, in the first instance to lodge an expression of interest in the project.

The Centre does not accept direct applications – it is important to contact the Centre Manager to discuss your interest at the earliest opportunity.

This project is part of the EPSRC CDT in MiNMaT.

References are taken up at interview stage.


Micro- and NanoMaterials and Technologies (MiNMaT)

Contact details

Noelle Hartley
05 AB 03
Telephone: +44 (0)1483 683467

Studentships at Surrey

We have a wide range of studentship opportunities available.