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Curtin University
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Curtin University

MPhil in Chemical Engineering

Applications for MPhil are invited from interested and qualified candidates:

The student will conduct research on the development of bioplastics based on chitosan-g-polyactic acid copolymer bionanocomposites.

Research Topic:
Preparation of well-defined architecture cellulose nanowhisker reinforced chitosan-g-polylactic acid nanocomposites via atomic transfer radical polymerization (ATRP) in an ionic liquid.                                                 

Duration of Studentship:  
2 years

Supervisor(s):  
Dr Yalun Arifin, Dr Bridgid Chin, AP Dr Mubarak Mujawar, Dr Faisal Amri Tanjung

Nature of support available:  
Complete tuition fee waiver; stipend (MPhil): RM1,600 per month and participate in one international conference.

Description:
Chitosan is considered to be very important renewable resources for biodegradable polymeric films. However, due to its dimensional instability, hygroscopic and strong hydrophilic character attributed by the existence of hydroxyl and amine functional groups along the backbone chain limit its widespread application, especially for structural application which requires high mechanical strength and thermal stability. Many methods have been developed to enhance properties of the chitosan film, such as chemical modification via graft copolymerization with other polymers, surface layer by layer assembly, surface coating and introduction of functionalized nano-filler as structure constituent. Nevertheless, these methods apparently do not impart an optimum enhancement on properties of the chitosan film. The drawback is primarily due to rigid nature of close packed molecular structure and strong hydrophilicity, making chitosan film is difficult to achieve an ultimate strength and resistance. In addition, the properties are strongly dependent on the structure, molecular weight and molecular chain orientation. In order to obtain chitosan biocomposite film with ultimate strength and dimensional stability, a dual consecutive route comprising of grafting copolymerization of chitosan with polyactic acid and reinforcement of the composites with cellulose nanowhisker is introduced and developed. Copolymer based on chitosan and polyactic acid is synthesized via controlled living copolymerization in an ionic liquid. Then, the fabrication of chitosan-g-PLA bio-nanocomposites reinforced with cellulose nanowhiskers (CNWs) is carried out via in situ processing technique. The composition-structure-property relationship of the bio-nanocomposites are evaluated by chemical, physical, thermal and morphological analysis in order to gain better understanding of the formation of nanostructure, interfacial interaction, atomic transfer radical copolymerization in ionic liquid, in situ processing and properties.

Eligibility: 

  1. Bachelor's in Chemical Engineering with CGPA 3.0 and above.
  2. Good communication skills and able to interact well with other people.
  3. Fluent in written and spoken English.
  4. Proactive and able to carry out research independently
  5. Strong reporting and documentation skills
  6. Pleasant personality, hardworking, independent, self-motivated
  7. Malaysian nationality.

Note: 
Those interested to apply for the scholarship, please kindly send a copy of your CV and cover letter to Dr Bridgid Chin via email,bridgidchin@curtin.edu.my.