Many plastics and polymers—including paints, glues and lubricants—will be transformed in the coming years by the work of Australian chemists, Professors David Solomon and Ezio Rizzardo.
Their work is integral to more than 500 patents and their techniques are used in the labs and factories of DuPont, L’Oréal, IBM, 3M, Dulux and more than 60 other companies.
Eventually, the pair’s chemical theories and processes will influence hundreds of products.
Polymers are chemical structures built of repeating units of molecules joined together like beads on a string.
David and Ezio found ways to provide unprecedented control over the structure, composition and properties of these polymers, which are now used in almost every facet of our lives.
“The raw materials don’t really change, it’s how you put them together that counts,” says David.
This polymer revolution is largely thanks to this pioneering pair: David, who taught himself about polymers while working for Dulux as a teenager; and Ezio, who came to Australia as a young Italian migrant without a word of English.
For their work, David and Ezio jointly received the 2011 Prime Minister’s Prize for Science.
With the world’s biggest chemical companies using their process to build ever more sophisticated polymers, David and Ezio are developing new polymer applications.
David is developing a one-molecule-thick polymer film that will prevent evaporation from reservoirs and water storages, while Ezio is developing “smart” biomaterials to carry drugs which can be targeted precisely at specific tissues.