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Yaffle your next project

Yaffle, Memorial’s online connecting tool, is full of big ideas looking for someone to take them on. Here’s one of them.

The problem

If someone handed you a plastic bottle of water, would you take a sip? Years ago, you probably wouldn’t have thought twice, but these days, you might be more hesitant.

We’ve all heard stories about the dangers of polycarbonate plastics and BPA, the organic compound used to make them. However, imagine if we could find a way to take advantage of the benefits of polycarbonates, but making them biodegradable and without using the potentially dangerous compounds in the process.

That’s Department of Chemistry researcher Dr. Christopher Kozak’s plan, and he’s hoping to use a very common, and sometimes very lazy, molecule to do it.
Carbon-containing molecules will leap at any chance to become carbon dioxide (CO2), which is what happens when we burn fossil-fuels like oil. Once that change happens, good luck getting it off the couch to do anything more. “Think of it this way,” said Dr. Kozak. “If you leave dinner on the barbecue too long, you’re not going to have much success un-burning it!”

Still, Dr. Kozak has plans to put those sluggish carbon dioxide molecules to work: he and his team are currently working on a project to create molecules that can trap CO2 and maybe even convert it into polycarbonates similar to the ones currently produced using BPA.

Dr. Kozak’s plan is to find a way to use CO2 molecules in place of BPA, creating an altogether new type of polycarbonate that has all the qualities we like, but that is biodegradable, non-toxic and made with cheap, abundant CO2.

The project

The ultimate goal of the project is to find ways to reduce environmental impact. As such, it’s a great opportunity for a student or researcher who’s interested in the sustainability-oriented philosophy behind green chemistry.

As Dr. Kozak explained: “Chemistry has a bad reputation as being the source of pollution, toxins and “bad” chemicals, but at the same time, it’s also responsible for our comfortable way of life. Green chemistry is a philosophy that uses chemistry to minimize our impact on the environment while allowing us to make the things we need and want. It’s basically the reduce, reuse and recycle approach.”

While a strong background in chemistry is crucial, Dr. Kozak is also looking for people who are committed to sustainability, both as a philosophy and a means of economic development.

Are you a graduate or undergraduate student or researcher with a chemistry background who knows the three “R”s as well as the periodic table?

Contact Bojan Fürst ( or 864-2120) at the Harris Centre to get involved with this, or any other, Yaffle project.