88385 - Biopolymers and Sustainable Polymers

Academic Year 2021/2022

  • Teaching Mode: Traditional lectures
  • Campus: Bologna
  • Corso: Second cycle degree programme (LM) in Low Carbon Technologies and Sustainable Chemistry (cod. 9246)

Learning outcomes

Polymers and production processes from renewable sources, processes of recovery and recycling of polymeric materials, depolymerization and degradation of polymeric materials, production of biodegradable polymers. Membranes and polymeric technologies and composite materials for the environment and energy.

Course contents


Basic knowledge of organic chemistry, general chemistry and physical chemistry concepts.


  • Basic knowledge of polymer science:
    • Polymerization processes;
    • Molecular weight distribution and its assessment;
    • Amorphous phase and glass transition
    • Crystal phase
    • Structure-properties correlation in polymers: thermoplastics, thermosettings, elastomers and fibers.
  • Different aspects of sustainability in polymer science
  • Definition of Sustainable Polymers and Biopolymers
  • Overview of the main relevant international standards (ASTM and ISO).
  • Polymers from renewable resources:
    • Naturally occurring polymers: direct use and modifications
    • Biorefinery: Monomers form renewable resources and their chemical conversion
  • Biodegradable and compostable polymers:
    • Biodegradable polymers from renewable resources
    • Fossil-based biodegradable polymers
  • The fate of polymers: recycling and disposal of polymeric materials

A lab session will be carried out, working with biodegradable materials in order to understand their properties. Students will be asked to prepare a lab report about this experience.


Teaching material (power point presentations and, when necessary, scientific papers) will be available on line on Moodle the day before lectures.

Additional reading material (reports, statistics and in-depth papers focussing on specific issues), will also be available. This additional material, that will not be essential for the course, will be clearly labelled in a "Supplementary Material" Folder that students will be able to access on Moodle.

The Moodle platform will be available for all the students enrolled in the course.

Teaching methods

The course will be mainly held as room lectures with the help of Power Point Presentations. The lectures will be also streamed on TEAM for the students unable to be present due to the COViD-19 emergency and restraints. More up to date information on the situation is available here.

During the course students will be encouraged to enter active class discussion about open issues within the course development. Students involvement, being them in classroom or participating in streaming from home, and their active suggestions will be addressed and followed.

Assessment methods

After completing the course the student should be able to:

  • Incorporate sustainabitity principles into polymer science concepts
  • Assess the main features of polymeric materials in terms of sustainability
  • Evaluate the application and fate of polymers as a function of their chemical structure;

Learning assessment is based on oral examination at the end of the course. In order to attend the final examination, students have to register online within the given deadlines (registration usually closes one day prior the exam date, but students are ancouraged to check a few days in advance for the exam date thay plan to attend). The oral examination will last about 20 to 30 minutes and it will assess:

  • the comprehension of the main aspects affecting sustainability of the macromolecules
  • the ability to correlate the structure of a polymer with its application and fate
  • the ability to discuss case studies addressing sustainability issues and standards application.

Students will be asked to start from a subject of choice: they can either discuss a part of the program or give a short presentation on a specific theme related to polymer sustanability, even if outside the main syllabus. Two additional questions from the teacher will follow. The written report from the lab experience will be evaluated as a part of the final assessment.

Teaching tools

Students with DSA or disabilities can contact Servizio Studenti con Disabilità e DSA dell’Università di Bologna (Italian only), the Department contact person (Prof. Giorgio Bencivenni, giorgio.bencivenni2@unibo.it) or directly the teacher to address the most convenient approach for accessing teaching materials and supports, and to gain access to all the convenient services and areas of the Departments (i.e. room for frontal lectures).

Office hours

See the website of Laura Mazzocchetti


Industry, innovation and infrastructure Sustainable cities Responsible consumption and production Climate Action

This teaching activity contributes to the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals of the UN 2030 Agenda.