Products made from plastics, foams and other polymers are used around the world. Globally, more than 660 billion pounds of polymers are produced each year for use in homes, cars, furniture, airplanes, ships, machinery, computers, and many other products. However, only about 10% of these polymers are recycled in the United States, resulting in massive amounts of waste.
The problem is immense; the impact of a solution is just as immense.
âI love plastics. I love the materials, âsaid ASU professor Tim Long. âBut I don’t want my inheritance to be a piece of plastic floating in water. I want to address the plastic crisis for our nation and the world. ”
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To address this and other challenges, Professor Tim Long of Arizona State University, director of the ASU Biodesign Center for Sustainable Macromolecular Materials and Manufacturing, is bringing together research in chemistry, engineering chemicals, health sciences and mechanical engineering.
The American Chemical Society recently recognized Long’s commitment to excellence in higher education and polymer research through the 2022 Paul J. Flory Prize, named in honor of the late Nobel Laureate of chemistry.
Long arrived at ASU in 2020, building on a successful 20-year career at Virginia Tech where he rose through the ranks, creating and ultimately leading the Macromolecules Innovation Institute. Now, working jointly at the ASU School of Molecular Sciences and the Ira A. Fulton Schools of Engineering, Long is working to turn research success into societal success.
Although Long designs innovative materials based on polymer chemistry, his passion is to use his knowledge and skills to solve global problems.
âI love plastics. I love the materials, âLong said. âBut I don’t want my inheritance to be a piece of plastic floating in water. I want to address the plastic crisis for our nation and the world. ”
Long believes that we shouldn’t only be good at making polymers, but we should also be good at breaking them down so that these materials can be reused rather than just sitting in a landfill. This often includes partnerships.
Long recently caught up with Habitat for Humanity to explore 3D printing of houses. It has also started a partnership with the Mayo Clinic to find ways to recycle medical waste, such as plastic waste generated as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. Additionally, Long’s research group recently received a $ 1.9 million grant from the National Science Foundation, in partnership with adidas AG, to reduce foam waste.
âASU is uniquely positioned to meet these challenges,â said Long. âThrough collaborations between the School of Molecular Sciences (SMS) and the Fulton Schools of Engineering, as well as with community and industry partners, my goal is to quickly position the School of Molecular Sciences as one of the top five programs in macromolecular science and engineering to solve these problems. significant challenges. ASU brings these facets, with the convergence of an interdisciplinary research culture coupled with a passion for engaging the local community. That’s why I’m here, to forge these partnerships.
The key to Long’s approach is the development of the next generation of researchers. Its graduates continue to have a positive impact on sustainability around the world, such as Proctor and Gamble Principal Scientist John Layman; Ann Fornof, Polymer Scientist at 3M; Joseph Dennis of the Army Research Laboratories in Chicago; and Keren Zhang, who used to work at Dupont but now works at Facebook to bring advanced materials to the company.
âI am an interdisciplinary researcher,â Long said. “I love to speak the different languages ââof science and engineering, looking for new intersections for discovery. I want to make an impact on this world while educating students to create a sustainable future.”
“Macromolecular science and engineering continue to catalyze future technologies and address the great challenges of our time, from new sensors with superior sensitivity and selectivity for healthcare to chemical and biological processes for fight against climate change â, declared Tijana Rajh, director of the School of Molecular Sciences. âSMS, in collaboration with the Biodesign Institute, under the direction of Tim Long and his team, positions SMS at the forefront of these future directions of research. “