Associate Professor Bronwyn Laycock

Associate Professor

School of Chemical Engineering
Faculty of Engineering, Architecture and Information Technology
b.laycock@uq.edu.au
+61 7 334 68882

Overview

Dr Bronwyn Laycock has a diverse background in translational research, working not only in academia but also in industry and as a consulting chemist, as well as at CSIRO. Her research activities have ranged from bio/degradable polymers, composites, organic and organometallic synthesis, waste conversion technologies, and pulp and paper chemistry, to general polymer chemistry. She is currently working across a range of projects with a focus on materials for circular economy applications and management of the transition to the new plastics economy. The application areas in her research program include biopolymers (particularly polyhydroxyalkanoates), polymer lifetime estimation and end-of-life management/conversion technologies, biocomposites, controlled release matrixes for pesticide and fertiliser applications, polyurethane chemistry, polymer foams, biodegradable packaging, carbon nanofibre production and peptide based conducting nanowires.

She has a strong history of successful commercialisation and impact, being a co-inventor on CSIRO's extended wear contact lens program (recognised as it fourth most significant invention) - for which she was awarded a joint CSIRO Medal for Research Achievement 2009. As a Project Leader and Deputy Program Leader within the CRC for Polymers, she also managed a project that delivered an oxodegradable thin film polyethylene that was commercially licenced by Integrated Packaging. This work earned the team a Joint Chairman’s Award for research/commercialization (CRC for Polymers) and an Excellence in Innovation Award (CRC Association).

Research Interests

  • Biodegradable polymers - Polyhydroxyalkanoates
    Polyhydroxyalkanoates are microbially synthesised biodegradable polymers that have properties comparable with polypropylene. They can be synthesised using mixed cultures from wastewater treatment plants and fermented waste carbon streams, and have very versatile properties depending on feedstock. Not only are they completely biodegradable, even in a marine environment, they are also water resistant (unusual for a biopolymer).
  • Carbon fibres from polyethylene and bioderived polymers
  • Conducting peptide nanowires
  • Controlled release formulations for agricultural applications
  • Polyurethane foams incorporating lignin
  • Biocomposites, particularly wood biopolymer composites
  • Starch-polyhydroxyalkanoates laminates for packaging applications
  • Next Generation fertilisers
  • Nutrient recovery and reuse (WWTP)

Research Impacts

Dr Laycock's research seeks to address some of the challenges around global sustainability and planetary boundaries, such as nutrient recovery and efficiency, controlled release formulations and sustainable materials for the circular economy, particularly bioderived materials for packaging, film and other applications, as well as plastics lifetime and impact estimation and end-of-life management.

Qualifications

  • Graduate Diploma in Soil Science, The University of Melbourne
  • Master of Environment, The University of Melbourne
  • Bachelor of Science, The University of Queensland
  • Doctor of Philosophy, The University of Queensland

Publications

View all Publications

Grants

View all Grants

Supervision

  • Doctor Philosophy

  • Doctor Philosophy

  • Doctor Philosophy

View all Supervision

Available Projects

  • Background

    Plastics pollution in our oceans is a wicked problem. Our current plastics economy continues to deliver large and increasing volumes of plastics waste into our environment, and all countries globally are affected. An opportunity exists for an outstanding PhD candidate to work on an innovative project that explores strategies for addressing this issue. This project will form part of a family of projects that seek to build a systematic framework for addressing the challenges of the new plastics economy, particularly plastic materials design, use and end-of-life management. The successful student would be part of a vibrant research group focussing on sustainability challenges.

    The current exponential growth in global plastics production and consumption has been matched by a corresponding exponential increase in leakage of these plastics into our environment, with plastic pollution now being ubiquitous worldwide. While efforts are now underway to develop efficient and effective recycling systems to recapture and reuse the bulk of our petroleum derived plastics, ultimately we need to understand the drivers for our existing systems and identify the key intervention points where we can make a substantial difference to the system leakage into our marine environment most cost-effectively.

    This project will begin to address that challenge by undertaking a systems approach to framing of the challenge, before identifying key issues to be addressed, whether that be through novel materials design, strategies for waste conversion and/or repurposing, undertaking lifetime and/or impact assessment, partnering with local communities to evaluate strategic local solutions, or other approaches identified through the early analysis.

    The role

    We are offering an opportunity for an excellent PhD candidate to work with Professor Paul Lant, Associate Professor Steven Pratt and Associate Professor Bronwyn Laycock on this innovative project that will explore strategies for tackling marine plastics pollution.

    Why work with us?

    As a team, we bring together a unique combination of skills in advanced polymer chemistry and materials design, polymer lifetime and impact assessment, environmental risk assessment, systems thinking and sustainability planning – skills that would enable you to deliver a unique take on this complex issue. We have a strong history of working very effectively together, as supervisors and researchers, and have won several awards for supervision and undertaken significant PhD student development activities. We would provide a challenging but impactful PhD experience. For example, depending on their interests and project targets, our students have undertaken industry placements in advanced materials design, sat on expert panels advising Government on policy, run Australia-wide surveys on attitudes to plastic, and developed fundamental models of plastics degradation and environmental impact – if it makes sense for the project, we can usually make it happen.

View all Available Projects

Publications

Book Chapter

  • Nikoli, M, Colwell, J., Yeh, C.-L., Cash, G., Laycock, B., Gauthier, E., Halley, P., Bottle, S. and George, G. (2021). Real-World Factors That Impact Polyolefin Lifetimes. Lifetimes and Compatibility of Synthetic Polymers. edited by James Lewicki and George Overturf. *: Wiley.

  • Pratt, Steven, Vandi, Luigi-Jules, Gapes, Daniel, Werker, Alan, Oehmen, Adrian and Laycock, Bronwyn (2019). Polyhydroxyalkanoate (PHA) bioplastics from organic waste. Biorefinery: integrated sustainable processes for biomass conversion to biomaterials, biofuels, and fertilizers. (pp. 615-638) edited by Juan-Rodrigo Bastidas-Oyanedel and Jens Ejbye Schmidt. Springer International Publishing: Springer. doi: 10.1007/978-3-030-10961-5_26

  • Dilkes-Hoffman, L.S., Pratt, S., Lant, P.A. and Laycock, B. (2019). The role of biodegradable plastic in solving plastic solid waste accumulation. Plastics to Energy. (pp. 469-505) edited by S.M. Al-Salem. Kidlington, Oxford, United Kingdom: Elsevier. doi: 10.1016/b978-0-12-813140-4.00019-4

  • Pikaar, Ilje, Matassa, Silvio, Rabaey, Korneel, Laycock, Bronwyn, Boon, Nico and Verstraete, Willy (2018). The urgent need to re-engineer nitrogen-efficient food production for the planet. Managing water, soil and waste resources to achieve sustainable development goals: Monitoring and implementation of integrated resources management. (pp. 35-69) Cham, Switzerland: Springer International Publishing. doi: 10.1007/978-3-319-75163-4_3

  • Laycock, Bronwyn G. and Halley, Peter J. (2014). Starch applications: state of market and new trends. Starch Polymers: From Genetic Engineering to Green Applications. (pp. 381-414) edited by Peter J. Halley and Luc R. Avérous. Burlington, MA, USA: Elsevier. doi: 10.1016/B978-0-444-53730-0.00026-9

Journal Article

Conference Publication

Other Outputs

Grants (Administered at UQ)

PhD and MPhil Supervision

Current Supervision

Completed Supervision

Possible Research Projects

Note for students: The possible research projects listed on this page may not be comprehensive or up to date. Always feel free to contact the staff for more information, and also with your own research ideas.

  • Background

    Plastics pollution in our oceans is a wicked problem. Our current plastics economy continues to deliver large and increasing volumes of plastics waste into our environment, and all countries globally are affected. An opportunity exists for an outstanding PhD candidate to work on an innovative project that explores strategies for addressing this issue. This project will form part of a family of projects that seek to build a systematic framework for addressing the challenges of the new plastics economy, particularly plastic materials design, use and end-of-life management. The successful student would be part of a vibrant research group focussing on sustainability challenges.

    The current exponential growth in global plastics production and consumption has been matched by a corresponding exponential increase in leakage of these plastics into our environment, with plastic pollution now being ubiquitous worldwide. While efforts are now underway to develop efficient and effective recycling systems to recapture and reuse the bulk of our petroleum derived plastics, ultimately we need to understand the drivers for our existing systems and identify the key intervention points where we can make a substantial difference to the system leakage into our marine environment most cost-effectively.

    This project will begin to address that challenge by undertaking a systems approach to framing of the challenge, before identifying key issues to be addressed, whether that be through novel materials design, strategies for waste conversion and/or repurposing, undertaking lifetime and/or impact assessment, partnering with local communities to evaluate strategic local solutions, or other approaches identified through the early analysis.

    The role

    We are offering an opportunity for an excellent PhD candidate to work with Professor Paul Lant, Associate Professor Steven Pratt and Associate Professor Bronwyn Laycock on this innovative project that will explore strategies for tackling marine plastics pollution.

    Why work with us?

    As a team, we bring together a unique combination of skills in advanced polymer chemistry and materials design, polymer lifetime and impact assessment, environmental risk assessment, systems thinking and sustainability planning – skills that would enable you to deliver a unique take on this complex issue. We have a strong history of working very effectively together, as supervisors and researchers, and have won several awards for supervision and undertaken significant PhD student development activities. We would provide a challenging but impactful PhD experience. For example, depending on their interests and project targets, our students have undertaken industry placements in advanced materials design, sat on expert panels advising Government on policy, run Australia-wide surveys on attitudes to plastic, and developed fundamental models of plastics degradation and environmental impact – if it makes sense for the project, we can usually make it happen.