ERC Advanced Grant for Filip Du Prez

Foto Hilde Christiaens (large view)

Foto Hilde Christiaens

(22-04-2021) This year, Filip Du Prez (faculty of Sciences) is the only Ghent University researcher to receive an ERC Advanced Grant. He aims to bring intrinsically non-recyclable plastics such as thermosets and rubbers into a circular economy.

Today the European Research Council (ERC) announced which top European researchers deserve an Advanced Grant. With these prestigious research mandates, the European Union is investing 507 million euros in groundbreaking research this year.

Professor Filip Du Prez secured an ERC Advanced Grant this year for his innovative project entitled "Circular Thermoset Materials: How to exploit Precision Engineered Macromolecules in their Bottom-up Design?" (CiMaC). He will receive a budget for a minimum of five researchers to spend five years researching new solutions for making recyclable a class of plastics of which more than 40 million tons are produced annually today with no prospect of their reuse.

From 'plastic' to sustainable and circular plastics

Plastics have become an integral part of our daily lives. Certain plastics ('thermoset' plastics such as epoxy resin and bakelite) are incredibly robust and are therefore wordwide widely used in numerous sustainable applications - ranging from windmill blades to aircraft wings and bicycle frames. However, due to their chemical structure they cannot be reused for the same application. Therefore, they do not fit at all in Europe's 'Green Deal' vision to make the use of plastics circular. The project of Filip Du Prez proposes a unique polymer chemistry approach that eventually aspires to an industrial roll-out.

Innovative chemistry in revolutionary materials research

Over the last decades, academics and industrialists worldwide have been looking for solutions to recover or recycle cross-linked plastics (used for example in composites, rubbers and adhesives). However, the materials investigated today have significant shortcomings, not only in terms of long-term stability but also in the speed with which they can be reprocessed after use.

Filip Du Prez and his research team will first seek to achieve unprecedented control over the molecular parameters of such cross-linked plastics. To do so, they will start from an innovative chemical approach inspired by the way proteins are made by nature. This knowledge will then be used to develop a new generation of widely applicable and durable plastics with the desired material properties.

What are ERC Advanced Grants?

ERC Advanced grants are awarded to top researchers of any nationality, to carry out a ground-breaking, high-risk/high-gain fundamental research project at a European institution, for 5 years. Project proposals are evaluated for excellence and researchers are judged based on their track record over the last 10 years.

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