New Materials, New Directions

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Jenna Jambeck is associate director of UGA’s New Materials Institute, which is working with partners in industry and academia to pioneer sustainable alternatives to plastic.

The University of Georgia’s New Materials Institute is pioneering the next generation of plastic alternatives and creating new connections with industry and academic partners.

The institute draws on the expertise of faculty members from a wide variety of disciplines, and it includes faculty members from six of our colleges—the Franklin College of Arts and Sciences, College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences, College of Family and Consumer Sciences, College of Veterinary Medicine, College of Public Health, and the College of Engineering—as well as the University’s Skidaway Institute of Oceanography.

Although it was founded just a year ago, the New Materials Institute is already drawing national recognition. A National Science Foundation planning grant has enabled the institute to bring experts in industry and academia from across the nation to UGA to guide the development of new industry and academic partnerships in a field that has important implications for the economy as well as the environment.

Working with colleagues at Iowa State University and Washington State University through the existing Center for Bioplastics and Biocomposites, UGA researchers would be lending their expertise to the development of an array of products—including bioplastics, coatings, adhesives, and composites—that are designed to be economically viable and sustainable. 

In a widely publicized paper published in the journal Science, associate professor of engineering Jenna Jambeck found that 8 million metric tons of plastic enter the world’s oceans every year. The creation and widespread adoption of materials that are durable but don’t create persistent pollution problems would be an unmitigated win for the environment and also position our nation at the forefront of an emerging industry. 

UGA has a strong track record of moving faculty inventions in the marketplace to promote economic vitality and other societal benefits. More than 675 products based on UGA research—ranging from vaccines to crop varieties and software—are currently on the marketplace, and the work of the faculty members in the New Materials Institute promises to push that figure even higher.

More information:
New Materials Institute
Economic Impact