Novel methods for recycling: synthesis of degradable polymers and degradable pressure-sensitive adhesives

This project will explore novel degradable polymers for the preparation of sustainable adhesives.

Start date

1 April 2024


3.5 years

Application deadline

Funding information

The funding offer includes 3.5 years of stipend (currently £18,622 per year) and tuition fees (at UK/home level) as well as travel allowance to attend (international) conferences. International applicants are welcome to apply but must identify a source to cover the difference between international and home tuition fees.


Labels, sticky tape, and graphic films are widespread materials. But the adhesives used in them cannot be reused or recycled. Exploiting Surrey expertise in degradable polymers, this project proposes an innovative approach toward adhesives that can be switched into non-sticky and solution-processable products on demand. Funding is available for two PhD projects at Surrey, one in Chemistry and one in Physics, starting January 2024. Both researchers will be working closely together on the synthesis of degradable polymers and pressure-sensitive adhesives. These are adhesives that bond with the application of pressure and without the need for solvents or heat. Sticky tape is a common every-day PSA use, but similar adhesives are also used in the cardboard, label, and graphics industry with a huge, and growing, global market. Unfortunately, there is currently no recycling strategy available for PSAs, because they contain a network of cross-linked polymer chains. This crosslinking is permanent: even if a PSA is fully removed from a surface, the adhesive components remain insoluble and sticky. This is a particular challenge in industry, for example during the recycling of cardboard and glass. This project will explore novel routes for the degradation and potential recycling of PSAs. The strategy involves the synthesis of novel monomers that undergo radical ring-opening polymerization and can instal weak links into the backbone of vinyl polymers. The polymer synthesis and characterization will take place in the Polymer Chemistry research group led by Dr Peter Roth. The subsequent fabrication and characterization of pressure-sensitive adhesives will take place in the Soft Matter research group led by Professor Joe Keddie. While the work can be split into a chemistry and a physics side, it is possible for the two PhD students to be trained in both areas and benefit from the interdisciplinary project.

Eligibility criteria

You will need to meet the minimum entry requirements for our PhD programme. Usually, you should hold a first-class, upper second class (or international equivalent) Bachelor’s or Master’s degree in chemistry, material science or a related subject. Ideally you will have experience (or at least a strong interest) in polymer chemistry. Postgraduate applicants whose final year of study was completed at a UK higher education institute do not have to provide further evidence of English Language.

How to apply

Applications should be submitted via the Chemistry PhD programme page. In place of a research proposal you should upload a document stating the title of the project that you wish to apply for and the name of the relevant supervisor.

Chemistry PhD

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Application deadline

Contact details

Peter Roth
34 AZ 03
Telephone: +44 (0)1483 686396

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