The Synthesis of Water-soluble Polymers from Biomass Derivable Platform Molecules

Research output: ThesisDoctoral Thesis


This research aimed to demonstrate the potential to produce sustainable water-soluble polymers using platform molecules derivable from biomass. Diesters containing water-solubilising pendants were synthesised by means of esterification and subsequent Michael addition to α,β-unsaturated diacids, itaconic and fumaric acid. Attempts at using these diester monomers in the formation of water-soluble polymers failed, either as a result of pendant loss or due to pendant interaction with the transesterification catalyst. An alternative approach to the synthesis was therefore developed. Formation of α,β-unsaturated polyesters and subsequent Michael addition of pendants successfully generated a group of sustainable biomass derivable polyesters. Moreover, this altered methodology of synthesis offers the potential for a wider selection of biomass derivable polymers to be generated from future research. The unsaturated polyester backbones and the Michael donors used in this research were only a small selection from a larger pool of potential materials and chemicals. This research highlighted the potential of bio-platform molecules, obtainable from biorefineries, to yield polyesters with various properties. Of even greater value was the versatility of the synthetic methodologies (esterification, polytransesterification and Michael addition) that can be applied to the majority of the ‘top bio-platform molecules’ highlighted by the US Department of Energy.

In every synthetic step investigated careful consideration of the greenness and effects of methodology on the environment was given. To this end the use of heterogeneous catalysts, microwave activation, and avoidance of solvents and other auxiliaries was applied throughout, improving the ‘green credentials’ of the final water-soluble polymers obtained.

The family of polyesters produced during this research have the potential to replace current fossil fuel derived equivalents, thus achieving sustainability in the Home and Personal Care market where the environmental impact of products could be used as a powerful marketing tool.
Original languageEnglish
QualificationDoctor of Philosophy
Awarding Institution
  • Chemistry
  • MacQuarrie, Duncan James, Supervisor
  • Clark, James Hanley, Supervisor
Thesis sponsors
Publication statusPublished - 2009

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