Nanostructured Polymer Engineering Laboratory
We are an interdisciplinary research laboratory working on the synthesis, characterization, and application development of functionalized homopolymers and block copolymers. We are interested in understanding the microstructures and physical properties of novel homopolymer and block copolymer systems. Ultimately our goal is to translate these fundamental understandings regarding material structure-property relations to the design and development of next generation advanced polymeric materials.
Polydisperse Block Copolymers
Block copolymer has the unique ability to self-assemble into different microstructures; however, its commercial use is limited mostly due to the high synthesis and processing cost associated with the production of monodisperse materials. If we can tolerate polydispersity in block copolymers, their production cost may be lowered to become more commercially attractive. We are interested in the synthesis and characterization of polydisperse block copolymers. By understanding the effect of varying polydispersity on block copolymer phase behavior we hope to establish polydispersity as an additional tool to manipulate block copolymer structural properties.
DNA- and RNA-Block Copolymers
DNA and RNA chains with desired biological functions will be linked to synthetic polymer chains to create hybrid block copolymers. One of the most interesting aspects of DNA and RNA molecules is their ability to hybridize with a complimentary strand. This allows DNA- and RNA-block copolymers to self-assemble into interesting morphologies that are not accessible to other types of block copolymers. We are interested in studying their self-assembly behavior in solution and in solid-state. These hybrid polymers are expected to find many applications in the biotechnology industry.
Polysaccharide-Containing High- c Block Copolymers
Polysaccharides, such as cellulose, amylose, dextran, and hyaluronan are widely abundant in nature. These polymers typically contain reactive hydroxyl groups which also make them suitable for incorporation into a block copolymer architecture and for post-polymerization functionalization. Since polysaccharides are typically hydrophilic while synthetic polymers are hydrophobic, the segregation strength (c) between the two blocks is expected to be high. In such a block copolymer material, microphase separation is expected to occur at a relatively low molecular weight, and the resulting microdomain periodicity is expected to be small, in the sub 10nm range. The uniform and extremely small domain periodicity make these polysaccharide block copolymers ideal candidates for ultrafiltration. Furthermore, after being properly aligned to create long-range order, these block copolymers can also be used as masks for nano-lithography. The sub 10nm feature size range is well below that is typically achieved in most conventional block copolymers.