Macromolecular Barcoding for Tracing Plastic Materials for the Circular Economy

Study level

Master of Philosophy


Plastic waste reduction and management is perhaps the most critical challenge facing modern economies, and plastic pollution cannot be resolved by generic approaches to research or to problem-solving.
QUT’s Soft Matter Materials Team aims to resolve the anonymity and ubiquity of plastics by pioneering a simple optical readout system (for example by using a smart phone) that can identify the uniquely coded information in macromolecules when they are embedded in plastic material.
You will be part of this dynamic team led by ARC Laureate Fellow Christopher Barner-Kowollik, Anja Goldmann and James Blinco from QUT’s Centre for Materials Science and the School of Chemistry and Physics.
The team works in close collaboration with colleagues from the faculty of law to bring about the necessary regulatory changes that will enable plastics to be traceable.

Research Activities

Your research will involve:
• organic synthesis
• macromolecular synthesis
• photochemistry
• soft matter materials science
• advanced functional materials.


In this project, optically readable macromolecular barcodes based on a system of excimer fluorescence switch-on in uniquely coded polymers will be synthesized by photochemistry. By decrypting monomer-based codes, the unique combination will enable the readability and thus the detection and traceability of plastics.
If you chose this project, you will be one of the first researchers to give anonymous plastics their own ‘DNA’ – which may one day be readable by a simple smart phone app!

Skills and experience

You must have:
• a strong interest in soft matter materials science and advanced manufacturing
• strong skills in organic synthesis
• a strong interest in multidisciplinary work between physics, chemistry and biology


Christopher Barner-Kowollik
James Blinco
• Hope Johnson

Postdoctoral research fellows
Lewis Chambers
Joshua Holloway