Research Area

Plastic RecyclingSustainable MaterialsPFAS RemediationAdhesivesCoatings (High barrier materials, active/smart coatings)

 Per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS)

 SusMat group, in collaboration with PFAS center, is developing a transformative approach for new classes of adsorbents for the separation of per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) from aqueous environments, which is crucial for safeguarding living organisms against toxic PFAS exposures. 

 Plastic Recycling/Upcycling

SusMat group is working on several projects to recycle/upcycle plastics from landfills. This work is in collaboration with other MSU faculty members from several departments.

 PFAS-free, Plastic-free Paper Coating

SusMat group is working on the fabrication of paper to impart them water and oil repellent for packaging applications. Several active projects are in progress in this area. The goal is to eliminate the use of PFAS and plastic from the paper coating.

 Polymer Synthesis

Approximately 99% of the plastics produced today are petroleum-based, and the packaging industry alone consumes over 38% of these plastics. These petroleum-based plastics are non-sustainable, non-degradable and have unpredictable prices.  Our group is focused on the development of new biodegradable polymers from renewable resources and their utilization in the packaging as well as non-packaging applications. We utilize renewable feedstock as monomers, which are converted into polymers with a wide range of polymerization approaches including olefin metathesis, ATRP, RAFT, NMP, metal-insertion polymerization, condensation polymerization, and ring-opening polymerization.  Also, post-polymerization modifications are employed to obtain the end-properties.

Renewable Feedstock 

Selected papers/patents

  • Biobased Rubbery Materials. US Provisional Patent Application Number:62508597, 2017; Inventor(s): Muhammad Rabnawaz 
  • Boucher-Jacobs Camille, Muhammad Rabnawaz, Damien Guironnet Joshua Katz, and Ralph Even, Encapsulation of Catalyst in Block Copolymer Micelles for the Polymerization of Ethylene in Aqueous Medium" Nature Communication 2018 [Accepted]
  • M. Rabnawaz, I. Wyman, R. Auras, S. Cheng, A roadmap towards green packaging: current status and future outlook for polyesters in the packaging industry,Green Chemistry 2017
  • M. Rabnawaz, G. Liu, Triblock Terpolymers Bearing a Redox-Cleavable Junction and a Photo-Cross-Linkable Block. Macromolecules 47, 5115-5123 (2014).
  • M. Rabnawaz, G. Liu, Preparation and application of a dual light-responsive triblock terpolymer. Macromolecules 45, 5586-5595 (2012).
  • X. Roy, J. K.-H. Hui, M. Rabnawaz, G. Liu, M. J. MacLachlan, Prussian Blue Nanocontainers: Selectively Permeable Hollow Metal–Organic Capsules from Block Ionomer Emulsion-Induced Assembly. Journal of the American Chemical Society 133, 8420-8423 (2011).
  • X. Roy, J. K. H. Hui, M. Rabnawaz, G. Liu, M. J. MacLachlan, Soluble Prussian Blue Nanoworms from the Assembly of Metal–Organic Block Ionomers. Angewandte Chemie International Edition 50, 1597-1602 (2011).


High Barrier Materials

In 2050, the demand for food will double due to the rising population and the growth of the middle class.  Approximately half of the food produced worldwide is wasted prior to consumption, and nearly 33% of food losses occur within the food supply chain.  Similarly, up to 10% of medicines are disposed of due to degradation via chemical oxidation, causing an annual loss of nearly $87 billion for the top 20 selling medicines alone. The packaging industry plays vital roles in reducing food and drug spoilages by minimizing their exposure to water and oxygen at various stages of their distribution.  The facile fabrication, light weight, and flexibility of plastics have allowed them to displace metals and glass as leading packaging materials.  Fifty three percent (53.4%) of the global beverage industry (beer, soft drinks, and juices) relies on plastic bottles.   However, plastics are typically poor barriers against water and oxygen and thus not suitable for the oxygen sensitive products such as beer and juices. 

We are developing innovative approaches for the preparation of high-barrier plastics.  By improving the barrier properties, not only the shelf-life is increased but also less material is required to produce a package; thus minimizing food-waste as well as the reduces plastic consumption.  

Bottle Permeation


Multifunctional Coatings

 Another key aspect of our research is the use of smart/active coatings to address various pressing problems. Active surfaces are developed to prevent losses caused by the growth of microorganism to food and underwater machinery. Coatings are also designed to prevent damages and complications caused by rusting and icing. In addition, self-cleaning surfaces are developed for applications ranging from self-cleaning windows to self-cleaning auto paint. These multifunctional coatings projects are typically conducted in collaboration with industries and academic partners.   


Smart Active Coatings


Selected papers/patents

  • M. Rabnawaz, G. Liu, H. Hu, Fluorine‐Free Anti‐Smudge Polyurethane Coatings. Angewandte Chemie 127, 12913-12918 (2015).
  • M. Rabnawaz, G. Liu, Graft‐Copolymer‐Based Approach to Clear, Durable, and Anti‐Smudge Polyurethane Coatings. Angewandte Chemie 127, 6616-6620 (2015).
  • M. Rabnawaz, G. Liu, Back Cover: Graft‐Copolymer‐Based Approach to Clear, Durable, and Anti‐Smudge Polyurethane Coatings (Angew. Chem. Int. Ed. 22/2015). Angewandte Chemie International Edition 54, 6652-6652 (2015).
  • Omniphobic Polyurethane Composition, U.S. Provisional Application No. 62/586,430 Inventor/contributor: Muhammad Rabnawaz, Fahad Khan and Vijay Pandian, 2017​
  • Anti-Smudge and Anti-Graffiti Compositions. US Patent Application serial number: 14/885,414, 2015 (Patent has been licensed to Lorama Inc. Milton, ON, Canada). Inventors: Heng Hu, Guojun Liu, and Muhammad Rabnawaz