Study level

  • PhD
  • Master of Philosophy
  • Honours
  • Vacation research experience scheme


Topic status

We're looking for students to study this topic.


Professor Christopher Barner-Kowollik
Deputy Vice-Chancellor and Vice President (Research)
Division / Faculty
Academic Division


The reduction and management of plastic waste is perhaps the most critical challenge facing modern economies and plastic pollution cannot be resolved by generic approaches to research or to problem-solving. The Soft Matter Materials Team aims to resolve the anonymity and ubiquity of plastics by pioneering a simple optical readout system that can identify the uniquely coded information in macromolecules that have been embedded in plastics.

In this project, optically readable macromolecular barcodes based on a system of excimer fluorescence switch-on in uniquely coded polymers will be synthesized by photochemistry. By decrypting monomer-based codes, the unique combination will enable the readability and thus the detection and traceability of plastics.

If you chose this project, you will be one of the first researchers to give anonymous plastics their own 'DNA' – which may one day be readable by a simple smart-phone app!

Research activities

  • Organic synthesis
  • Macromolecular synthesis
  • Photochemistry
  • Soft matter materials science
  • Advanced functional materials


Synthesise a library of fluorescent molecules and analyse their properties.

Skills and experience

  • Strong interest in soft matter materials science
  • Strong skills in organic synthesis
  • Strong interest in multidisciplinary work between physics, chemistry and biology
  • Willingness to collaborate internationally


You may be eligible to apply for a research scholarship.

Explore our research scholarships



Contact Dr Laura Delafresnaye for more information.