Polymer Engineering

This research area includes a broad range of polymer engineering studies. It spans from development and optimization of industrial processes for polymers manufacturing, to the development of polymers and biopolymers from renewable resources. Additionally, it involves the development of computational tools for analysis of complex polymerizations, namely networks and branched polymers formation.

This group is at the forefront of research on processing technology in Reaction Injection Moulding (RIM) processes, making significant recent contributions to the industry. A mixing head design has been introduced, enhancing mixing efficiency in RIM for processing polyurethanes (PUs). This breakthrough addresses longstanding processing challenges dating back to the technology's inception in the 1970s, thus expanding the range of materials for manufacturing through RIM

Additionally, the group has developed a rapid formulation methodology using rheometric devices, which requires only small quantities of materials and is finely tailored for RIM processing parameters. These advancements in technology now enable the integration of sustainable polymers into RIM processes.

The group has recently started the development of reactive extrusion technology for processing PUs based on biomaterials, namely for the national shoe industry as part of Portugal's recovery and resilience plan. This initiative aims to use polyols derived from biobased raw materials to produce thermoplastic PUs. Previously, the focus in developing biobased polymers was on identifying processing routes to convert biomass into polyols through oxypropylation, with lignin black liquor being a significant biomass source for this purpose. The liquid polyols obtained are used to produce rigid foams of polyurethanes or polyesters. The product development methodology used for RIM formulations is now being applied to these new formulations, with the goal of their application in the reactive extrusion process.

Major projects in this research area include: