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Polymer scientist receives international lifetime achievement award
Author: Media & Communication, Faculty of Science
Published: 25/03/2019

​Prof Harald Pasch, distinguished professor and holder of the SASOL Research Chair in Analytical Polymer Science at Stellenbosch University (SU), has received international recognition “for his massive contributions to the development of polymer characterisation techniques".

The SCM Lifetime Achievement award was made during the 9th International Symposium on the Separation and Characterisation of Natural and Synthetic Macromolecules (SCM) held in Amsterdam from 30 January to 1 February 2019. The SCM is the most prominent international conference on polymer fractionation and analysis. This is only the second time that the award has been presented, this time jointly to Prof Pasch and Prof Taihyun Chang from Pohang University, Korea.

Prof Peter Mallon, Head of SU's Department of Chemistry and Polymer Science, says it is an outstanding achievement to receive such recognition from international peers. In 2017 he was awarded the 2017 Gold Medal of the South African Chemical Institute​ (SACI), regarded as the highest recognition for outstanding contribution to research afforded by the South African chemical fraternity.

Prof Pasch's research focuses on the development of analytical methods for the analysis of complex macromolecular structures such as polymers. In this process his research group makes use of analytical techniques such as advanced fractionation and spectroscopic methods. In collaboration with major international companies such as SASOL, Borealis and L'Oreal, they have developed analytical protocols for complex polyolefins. More recently, the group started to address the valorisation of natural waste materials, such as lignin, which is produced in large quantities as part of the pulp and paper industry, agroforestry and agricultural waste. The aim is to investigate and develop environmentally friendly, selective and mild methods for effectively depolymerising lignin into low molar mass, high value compounds. These compounds can then be functionalised and used as monomers for the production of green (biodegradable) polymers.