hero image
Paul Topham - Aston University. Birmingham, , GB

Paul Topham

Head of School of Infrastructure and Sustainable Engineering | Aston University


Professor Topham's research is focussed on sustainable polymer science; making new plastics of the future for a wide range of applications.



Professor Topham is the Head of School of Infrastructure and Sustainable Engineering, Guest Professor at the South China University of Technology (SCUT), Guangzhou, P.R. China, Secretary of the IUPAC Subcommittee on Polymer Terminology (SPT), Chartered Chemist (CChem), a Fellow of the Royal Society of Chemistry (FRSC) and a Senior Fellow of the Higher Education Academy (SFHEA). He joined the Chemical Engineering and Applied Chemistry Department at Aston in August 2008 as a Lecturer in Chemistry, became a Senior Lecturer in August 2012, a Reader in Polymer Chemistry in August 2013 and a Full Professor in August 2017.

In addition to the above, he has been awarded the prestigious position of representing Hydrogen in the Periodic Table of Younger Chemists for the celebration of IUPAC100 and IYPT (2019): https://iupac.org/100/pt-of-chemist/, was the MacroGroup UK Young Researchers Medal 2014 recipient and is the Secretary for the Polymer Division of the International Union of Pure and Applied Chemistry (IUPAC; https://iupac.org/).

Following the completion of a PhD in 2006 with Professor Anthony J Ryan OBE, he undertook a post-doctoral research position working for Unilever, under the supervision of Professor Steve Armes.

Professor Topham’s research involves the design and creation of new polymers to solve a wide range of real-world problems with a particular focus on sustainable polymers, water purification and biomedical applications. The group utilise advanced characterisation techniques to probe the nanoscale behaviour of the polymers, including x-ray scattering and neutron reflectivity amongst more traditional methods. Current research interests include microphase separation (polymer self-assembly), triggerable materials, biopolymers and biodegradable polymers, biomaterials, electrospinning (nanofibrous fabrics) and organic solar cells.

Areas of Expertise (5)

Polymer Science

Block Copolymers


Biodegradable Polymers

X-ray Scattering

Accomplishments (1)

Aston University Early Career Researcher of the Year (professional)


Education (3)

University of Sheffield: MChem 2002

University of Sheffield: PhD, Polymer Science 2006

Aston University: Postgraduate Certificate, Professional Practice in Higher Education 2010

Affiliations (2)

  • Higher Education Academy : Senior Fellow
  • Royal Society of Chemistry (RSC) : Chartered Chemist

Articles (11)

Heterotelechelic homopolymers mimicking high χ – ultralow N block copolymers with sub-2 nm domain size†

Chemical Science

Three fluorinated, hydrophobic initiators have been utilised for the synthesis of low molecular mass fluoro-poly(acrylic acid) heterotelechelic homopolymers to mimic high chi (χ)–low N diblock copolymers with ultrafine domains of sub-2 nm length scale. Polymers were obtained by a simple photoinduced copper(II)-mediated reversible-deactivation radical polymerisation (Cu-RDRP) affording low molecular mass (

view more

Temperature-Regulating Phase Change Fiber Scaffold Toward Mild Photothermal–Chemotherapy

Advanced Fiber Materials

Photothermal therapy (PTT) is a treatment that increases the temperature of tumors to 42–48 °C, or even higher for tumor ablation. PTT has sparked a lot of attention due to its ability to induce apoptosis or increase sensitivity to chemotherapy. Excessive heat not only kills the tumor cells, but also damages the surrounding healthy tissue, reducing therapeutic accuracy and increasing the possible side effects. Herein, a phase change fiber (PCF) scaffold serving as a thermal trigger in mild photothermal–chemo tumor therapy is developed to regulate temperature and control drug release.

view more

One-step Method to Fabricate Poly(ethylene terephthalate)/Gd(OH)3 Magnetic Nanofibers Towards MRI-active Materials with High T1 Relaxivity and Long-term Visibility


Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI)-active polymers exhibit unique advantages for in vivo diagnosis. Here, in order to endow electrospun fibers with long-term T1 positive MRI visibility, MRI contrast agent (CA), Gd(OH)3, is introduced in a new, extremely convenient method. Crucially, GdCl3 is reacted with NaOH in situ during electrospinning, with flexibility to deliver both well-dispersed and aggregated Gd(OH)3 clusters within a poly(ethylene terephthalate) (PET) matrix. T1 and T2 relaxivities of Gd(OH)3 in PET nanofibers are studied. Well-dispersed Gd(OH)3 (sub-nanometer in size) exhibits 34 times higher T1 relaxivity than aggregated nanoparticles when embedded within the fibers.

view more

Sustainable ABA triblock methacrylate copolymers incorporating both high and low Tg terpene-derived monomers

European Polymer Journal

We report the synthesis of novel terpene-based monomers: nopinyl acrylate and methacrylate, from naturally abundant β-pinene. A very high Tg value was observed for poly(nopinyl methacrylate) when synthesised by free radical polymerisation, and well-defined polymers have been produced via RAFT polymerisation. This exciting new high Tg material shows promise as a hard block in thermoplastic elastomers. ABA triblock copolymers have been synthesised which also incorporate a low Tg renewable soft block, poly(tetrahydrogeraniol methacrylate), using a divergent, difunctional RAFT polymerisation method. Initial phase separation behaviour and adhesive properties have been investigated to highlight the potential of these copolymer materials as renewably sourced thermoplastic elastomers.

view more

Tetracycline-Loaded Electrospun Poly(l-lactide-co-ε-caprolactone) Membranes for One-Step Periodontal Treatment

ACS Applied Polymer Materials

In this research, a one-step periodontal membrane, with the required function and properties, has been designed as an alternative method of tissue regenerative treatments. Designed nanoporous prototypes from poly(l-lactide-co-ε-caprolactone) (PLCL, 70:30 mol %) were fabricated by electrospinning, denoted as S-PLCL. They were subsequently loaded with tetracycline (TC) in order to enhance periodontal regeneration and deliver an anti-inflammatory and antibiotic drug. It was found that TC loading did not have any significant effect on the fiber diameter but did increase hydrophilicity.

view more

Poly(butylene succinate) fibrous dressings containing natural antimicrobial agents

Journal of Industrial Textiles

Poly(butylene succinate) (PBSU) is a biodegradable and biocompatible synthetic aliphatic polyester, which has been used extensively in packaging, catering and agriculture, and more recently in drug delivery and bone and cartilage repair. PBSU-based mats created by electrospinning show promise as wound dressing materials because of their good mechanical properties, high surface area-to-volume ratio and increased levels of porosity.

view more

Improved Performance and Stability of Organic Solar Cells by the Incorporation of a Block Copolymer Interfacial Layer

Advanced Materials Interfaces

In a proof‐of‐concept study, this work demonstrates that incorporating a specifically designed block copolymer as an interfacial layer between a charge transport layer and the photoactive layer in organic solar cells can enhance the interface between these layers leading to both performance and stability improvements of the device. This is achieved by incorporating a P3HT50‐b‐PSSx block copolymer as an interfacial layer between the hole transporting and photoactive layers, which results in the improvement of the interfacial roughness, energy level alignment, and stability between these layers.

view more

Microwave‐assisted synthesis of levulinic acid from low‐cost, sustainable feedstocks using organic acids as green catalysts

Journal of Chemical Technology & Biotechnology

Modern day scientific endeavour strives towards global sustainability through the smart utilisation of renewable resources as base materials for chemicals. Until now, the most common commercial process to produce levulinic acid (a mass‐produced platform chemical) depends on a two‐stage mineral acid‐catalysed reaction, which generates harmful environmental waste. In this work, an environmentally friendly levulinic acid production route using less harmful organic acids assisted by microwave heating from biomass feedstocks is reported for the first time.

view more

The influence of structure and morphology on ion permeation in commercial silicone hydrogel contact lenses

Journal of Biomedical Materials Research Part B: Applied Biomaterials

The importance of the microstzructure of silicone hydrogels is widely appreciated but is poorly understood and minimally investigated. To ensure comfort and eye health, these materials must simultaneously exhibit both high oxygen and high water permeability. In contrast with most conventional hydrogels, the water content and water structuring within silicone hydrogels cannot be solely used to predict permeability. The materials achieve these opposing requirements based on a composite of nanoscale domains of oxygen‐permeable (silicone) and water‐permeable hydrophilic components.

view more

Physical and thermal properties of l‐lactide/ϵ‐caprolactone copolymers: the role of microstructural design

Polymer International

Understanding the underlying role of microstructural design in polymers allows for the manipulation and control of properties for a wide range of specific applications. As such, this work focuses on the study of microstructure–property relationships in l‐lactide/ϵ‐caprolactone (LL/CL) copolymers. One‐step and two‐step bulk ring‐opening polymerization (ROP) procedures were employed to synthesize LL/CL copolymers of various compositions and chain microstructures. In the one‐step procedure, LL and CL were simultaneously copolymerized to yield P(LL‐stat‐CL) statistical copolymers.

view more

Design, synthesis and RAFT polymerisation of a quinoline-based monomer for use in metal-binding composite microfibers

RSC advances

Metal-binding polymer fibres have attracted major attention for diverse applications in membranes for metal sequestration from waste waters, non-woven wound dressings, matrices for photocatalysis, and many more. This paper reports the design and synthesis of an 8-hydroxyquinoline-based zinc-binding styrenic monomer, QuiBoc. Its subsequent polymerisation by reversible addition-fragmentation chain transfer (RAFT) yielded well-defined polymers, PQuiBoc, of controllable molar masses (6 and 12 kg mol -1 ) with low dispersities (M w /M n < 1.3).

view more