University of Liverpool
3D printing materials developed with built-in durability and biodegradability3D printing can help solve many of the most pressing manufacturing problems we currently face, with applications across a range of industries and sectors. The role of 3D printing will greatly increase in the coming years because of its dynamic implementation and touted ability to improve supply chain resilience and target certain sustainability goals by reducing waste. However, the properties of 3D printed products, which are predominantly determined by the starting materials used in the printing process, are restricting its widespread use. Generally, 3D printed products are brittle, have poor biodegradability, and contain toxic residues. As a result, these products are often limited to use as models and prototypes. Developing new and improved polymers that can be used as starting materials in this manufacturing process is crucial to expanding its application and facilitating the great benefits that 3D printing can bring.
Matthew will be developing new and highly valuable hyperbranched photopolymers using a technique developed at the University of Liverpool and licensed to Polymer Mimetics, called ‘Transfer-Dominated Branching Radical Telomerisation (TBRT)’. These polymers have properties that are highly desirable for starting materials in 3D printing processes, including relatively low viscosity, high solubility, and low toxicity. Furthermore, there will also be potential to easily customise these materials according to industrial need, such as by ‘tuning in’ biodegradability, balancing durability and environmental concerns. Current use of hyperbranched polymers in industry is limited due to complex preparation procedures that make wider applications not feasible or financially viable. New techniques for developing such useful polymers are fundamental to allowing their roll-out to an industrial audience. A wider range of materials will incentivise more companies to invest in 3D printing, and benefit from the adaptability it can provide.
Matthew graduated from the University of Liverpool in 2020 with a master’s degree in Chemistry, having achieved the highest overall average for his academic programme. Whilst at university, Matthew earned a number of accolades for academic success, including the Society of Chemical Industry’s Leverhulme Prize for best MChem graduating student at the University of Liverpool, and the University’s Waters Prize to recognise excellence in his year 4 research project. Matthew has also undertaken roles at Lubrizol and Thermo Fisher Scientific to further his experience in chemical research.
“3D printing is set to revolutionise how we approach product development and manufacturing in a way that will impact sectors from healthcare to computing. My research will accelerate this revolution, adding durability to a process just in its infancy.”