DPOLY Short Course: Sustainable Polymers: Physics of New Materials, Design for Sustainability, and End-of-Life

Saturday, March 12 and Sunday, March 13
McCormick Place, Chicago, IL


LaShanda Korley, University of Delaware

Megan Robertson, University of Houston

Nic Rorrer, NREL


We thank our generous sponsors: Center for Plastics Innovation, Center for Sustainable Polymers, Dow, European Polymer Journal, Kraton, Milliken, NSF DMR Polymers Program, SABIC, and Tosoh

Course Details

Detrimental impacts of polymer production, usage, and waste generation on the environment are critical challenges facing our global society. This short course will bring together experts from academia, national laboratories and industry to teach concepts relevant to polymer sustainability, including fundamental property relationships and processing of sustainable polymers, sustainable syntheses and renewable origins of polymers, reprocessable networks, polymer recycling, upcycling, and degradation, characterization of waste plastics, and life cycle and techno-economic analyses. Attendees will leave with knowledge on fundamental aspects and cutting-edge research in these areas, and will experience tutorial activities for hands-on learning throughout the short course.

Who should attend?
The workshop is appropriate for polymer and soft materials researchers at all levels, in academia, national laboratories, and industry, who would like to learn about sustainability issues surrounding polymers and recent approaches to tackle these challenges. While aimed toward early-career researchers (including graduate students, postdocs, and early-career faculty and scientists) there will be topics of interest for researchers at all career levels.

Additional Information
Please bring a laptop for the hands-on tutorials on both Saturday and Sunday. No software installation is required beyond access to a web browser. Free wifi will be provided.

Tentative Schedule

Saturday, March 12: 

1:00 Introduction to Polymer Sustainability (Megan Robertson, University of Houston)
1:50 Polymer Upcycling (Ramanan Krishnamoorti, University of Houston)
2:40 Break
2:55 Depolymerization and Chemical Recycling (Julie Rorrer, MIT)
3:45 Analysis of Degraded, Consumer, and Recycled Polymers (Sara Orski, NIST)
4:35 Break
4:50 Waste Plastic and Polymer Degradation Tutorial, Including High-Temperature GPC (Sara Orski, NIST; Julie Rorrer, MIT; Nic Rorrer, NREL)
6:20 Wrap Up

Sunday, March 13:

7:40 Breakfast
8:00 Compatibilizers for Mechanical Recycling (Chris Ellison, University of Minnesota)
8:50 Compatibilization Tutorial (Aparajita Bhattacharya, Kraton)
9:40 Break
Transforming Thermosets into Thermoplastics: Dynamic Covalent Bonds Enable Sustainable Chemical Recycling of Polymer Networks (John Torkelson, Northwestern University)
Evaluating Polymer Sustainability with Life Cycle Assessment (Jennifer Dunn, Northwestern University)
11:40 Lunch
12:40 Manufacturing Benefits across Multiple Material Lives (Nic Rorrer, NREL)
1:30 LCA Tutorial (Nic Rorrer, NREL)
3:00 Break
3:20 Integrating the Principles of Green Chemistry and Bio-based Feedstocks for Enhanced Polymer Sustainability (Tim Long, Arizona State University)
4:10 Industrial Perspective on Bioplastics and Plastics Recycling (Scott Trenor, Milliken) 
5:00 Wrap Up

Graduate Student Travel Scholarships

Graduate student travel scholarships are available for both in-person and virtual participation in the short course. Please send the following information to Megan Robertson in one PDF file by Friday, February 11, 2022:

  1. Letter of nomination from research advisor (maximum 2 pages)
  2. Nominee CV (maximum 3 pages)
  3. Short paragraph (< 250 words) on how participation in the short course may enable the student's research

Eligibility: This award is open to graduate students who are studying at U.S. institutions. Applicants must be a member of the DPOLY division (click "Join DPOLY" on We especially encourage nominations of women and students from underrepresented groups.