Prof Mekonnen will discuss chemical modification and structure-function of polysaccharides for material applications, as well as recent trends in enzyme polymerization platforms for polysaccharide production.
Interest in polymeric materials arises from their extensive varieties of structure, morphology, molecular weight and functionality available via rational synthesis and their characteristically broad range of processing avenues. Moreover, polymers offer the potential for high performance, light weight and recyclability in many application areas at relatively low cost.
Nevertheless, there is growing concern over the environmental pollution, resource depletion, health and safety associated with the use and disposal of petroleum derived polymers. Consequently, there is a global effort to supplement and, in some cases, replace fossil derived polymers with smarter, sustainable and better performing renewable polymers (e.g. bio-based, biodegradable or compostable) for plastics and other industrial applications.
Among the various renewable sources, polysaccharides stand out as a highly convenient feedstock because they are readily available, renewable and inexpensive, and they provide great stereochemical diversity for modifications.
Tiz Mekonnen earned a BSc (Engineering Physics and Material Science), an MSc in Chemical Engineering and a PhD in Bioresource Engineering (2013) from the University of Alberta (Profs David Bressler, Philip Y.K. Choi). He also held a short postdoctoral research fellowship at the University of Guelph (Prof. Amar Mohanty). Mekonnen’s PhD and Postdoctoral research work entailed renewable macromolecule chemical modification, processing and structure- property correlations for polymer applications (thin films, coatings, rubber products, engineering composites and adhesives).
He worked at TerraVerdae BioWorks Inc. (1.5 years) and E.I. DuPont (2 years) as a Polymer Engineering Scientist, where he continued his research in sustainable polymeric material development. He became an Assistant Professor of Chemical Engineering at the University of Waterloo in November 2017.