Lipid utilization - Polymers/Materials Chemistry research group's mandate is to develop new monomers, biopolymers, biomaterials and bionanomaterials from lipids (plant oils) and other renewable resources for industrial applications. Therefore, our major research interests are on the synthesis of monomers, biopolymers, nano-engineered biopolymers, nano-biocomposites, biosorbents and bioconjugates from renewable resources using different catalytic techniques for various applications. More specifically the research is focused on: (1) the development of renewable monomers/chemicals from lipids and preparation of biopolymers and biopolymer based nanocomposites for high performance industrial applications, (2) utilization of lipids and protein biopolymers for the preparation of modified and nano-structured biomaterials for water remediation and biodegradable packaging, (3) development of conjugates and nano-modification of lipids for therapeutic and cosmetic applications.
1. Synthesis of Monomers, Chemicals and Biopolymers from Renewable Lipids
Recently, due to strong emphasis on environmental awareness worldwide, utilization of renewable feedstocks has been growing. Oils and fats, being renewable, are inherently valuable in this domain and may provide sustainability with respect to renewable monomers and polymeric materials.
Microwaves, being clean, green, and environmentally friendly, are emerging as an alternative source for product development. Dedicated microwave reactors have controlled temperature, pressure, hold time, and power options. The microwaves lead to enhanced rates, yields, and purities with dramatic shortening of reaction times. Our research group has developed a technology to convert lipids into various highly valuable monomers/chemicals within few minutes.
2. Nano-structured Biomaterials for different applications
Excessive use of fossil fuel-derived materials in packaging and other applications is leading to environmental pollution and waste disposal problems. Therefore, the development of biodegradable materials from renewable resources is extremely important and is attracting much attention. Although the biomaterials prepared from natural polymers are environmentally advantageous. However, these materials have intrinsic weaknesses such as inferior physical properties compared to conventional materials. These drawbacks can be overcome by exploiting nanotechnology. Nano-structured materials, with at least one dimension in manometer scale, are regarded as a new generation of high performance materials. Our current major focus is on developing nano-engineered biomaterials for targeted applications in packaging (food & non-food) and automotive sectors
3. Development of Renewable Sorbents/Biopolymers for Industrial/Oil Sands Process Affected Water Remediation and Mine Tailings Consolidations
Water is the most valuable compound on planet earth and vital for all forms of life. Because of rapid industrialization, continuously growing population and agricultural activities, the water pollution is becoming serious threat worldwide. Particularly, industrial processes such as oil sands and other industrial operations consume large volumes of water e.g., water produced in bitumen extraction process known as process-affected water (OSPW). Novel sorbents from renewable resources have great potential in water remediation by combining technology with environmental safety. Our team is developing novel sorbents/engineered biopolymers for simultaneous sorption of various contaminants from industrial waste waters and consolidations of tailings.
4. Lipid-derived Nano-particles and Bio-conjugates for Therapeutic and Cosmetic Applications
A challenge for targeted delivery is to engineer nanostructures that are biocompatible, non-toxic, can efficiently encapsulate high amounts of drugs, and release at the targeted site in a controlled manner. A particular challenge has been to develop renewable and benign materials materials for this purpose. Lipids being generally biodegradable, biocompatible, non-toxic, and non-allergenic are suitable candidates for therapeutic and cosmetic applications. Lipid-derived amphiphiles have great ability to self-assemble in nanostructures. Inherent hydrophobic nature of lipids makes them ideal for encapsulation of hydrophobic drugs and release them in a controlled fashion at a desired site. Our team is developing lipid-derived amphiphilic nanomaterials for such applications.