Sustainable materials for adhesives

Recycling glass with adhesive labels or cardboard with sticky tape can pose problems. The polymers in soft adhesives do not dissolve in solvents and can persist in the recycling stream. In this research, you will study, a new type of sustainable adhesive that can be degraded using a mild chemical treatment. The project is co-sponsored by industry.

Start date

1 April 2024


3.5 years

Application deadline

Funding source

An international adhesives company and Surrey’s Institute for Sustainability

Funding information

UKRI standard stipend (£18,622 for 2023-24), full tuition fees, and bench fees.


This research will focus on a new type of polymer network that can be broken down and degraded when needed, to allow the adhesive to be easily recycled. The experimental work will measure the mechanical, adhesive and rheological properties of the soft polymers, before and after their degradation into small molecular fragments. Another PhD student, supervised by Dr Peter Roth in Chemistry, will be synthesising the new degradable polymers. Results from the characterisation of the adhesive properties will guide the design of new polymer compositions. The team will pave the way for a commercial product that will offer environmental sustainability by increasing recyclability and re-use of materials. The PhD student will use the well-maintained, state-of-art laboratory facilities alongside other members of the friendly, welcoming members of the Soft Matter Group at Surrey. Training in the various techniques will be provided.

This project is co-funded by the University’s Institute for Sustainability and a Fortune 500-ranked company that specialises in the design and manufacture of a wide variety of labelling and functional materials. Throughout the project, there will be opportunities to visit the research site of the industrial sponsor in The Netherlands. The project will offer excellent preparation for a future career in academia or in industry, where the demand for greater sustainability is urgent. This project aligns with the Institute's research programme on plastics in the circular economy.

Read some prior work from the Surrey team on this topic here:

You can see some news coverage of the research here:

Learn more about the Institute for Sustainability:

Eligibility criteria

Open to candidates who pay UK/home rate fees. See UKCISA for further information.

Applications are welcome from anyone with an interest in sustainable materials, regardless of their academic background. Knowledge of rheology, mechanical properties, materials physics, or physical chemistry would be helpful for the research. Applicants should have, or expect to receive, a bachelor’s degree (upper second-class or higher) or a master’s degree with a distinction.

You will need to meet the minimum entry requirements for our PhD programme.

How to apply

Applications should be submitted via the Physics 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. Please contact Prof. Keddie ( before applying.

Physics PhD

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Application deadline

Contact details

Joseph Keddie
09 BB 03
Telephone: +44 (0)1483 686803

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