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Materials Manufacturing Innovation Center

Frontiers in Materials Manufacturing: Transforming Polymers for a Circular Economy

Transforming Polymers for a Circular Economy
Thursday, March 18, 202110:00 a.m. – 12:00 p.m. CT

The accumulation of vast quantities of plastic and other polymeric waste poses a significant environmental risk, both on land and in the oceans. We also lose material that might have significant end-of-life value if recycling and other reprocessing technologies were more cost-effective.

We have an opportunity to improve the energy and material efficiency of processes that would help recycle, upcycle and deconstruct polymers on scales that are not possible today. We also have the chance to design and manufacture polymers with recycling in mind: enabling, in other words, a more circular economy.

Experts from industry, government, and academia discussed the market and technological drivers at play, articulate the value proposition for companies to innovate in polymers, and survey a few of the most promising scientific and technological frontiers that will play key roles in growing the circular economy in polymers. The webinar featured a live tour of the state-of-the art equipment, technologies, and computational resources available to industry partners at the U.S. Department of Energy’s (DOE) Argonne National Laboratory, including its newly expanded Materials Engineering Research Facility.

Cynthia Jenks, Director of Chemical Sciences and Engineering Division at Argonne, kicked off the conversations on several questions: What prevents large-scale recycling and reprocessing of polymeric materials today? How might innovating in polymer recycling, upcycling, deconstruction, and design-for-recyclability unlock value for industry and society? What scientific advances are promising, and what helps scale the corresponding process technologies? How can public-private partnerships support U.S. competitiveness?

Experts included:

  • Ron Abbott, Sustainability Technical Manager, Chevron Phillips Chemical Company
  • Gretchen Baier, Executive External Strategy and Communications Leader, Dow
  • Max Delferro, Chemist and Group Leader for Catalysis Science, Argonne National Laboratory
  • Juan de Pablo, Vice President for National Laboratories, Science Strategy, Innovation, and Global Initiatives, and Liew Family Professor of Molecular Engineering, University of Chicago; Senior Scientist, Argonne National Laboratory
  • Jay Fitzgerald, Chief Scientist in the Bioenergy Technologies Office, U.S. Department of Energy
  • Michelle Hoffmann, Senior Vice President of Deep Tech, P33
  • Eric Klingenberg, Materials Science Lead, Mars Inc.
  • Jack Lewnard, Program Director in the Advanced Research Projects Agency–Energy (ARPA-E), U.S. Department of Energy
  • Kate Peretti, Technology Manager in the Advanced Manufacturing Office, U.S. Department of Energy
  • Jeff Spangenberger, Group Leader for Materials Recycling R&D, Argonne National Laboratory
  • Eric Tyo, Business Development Executive, Argonne National Laboratory

View the agenda and speaker biographies.