Current Research

Our research focuses on using flow and chemical reactions to create new multiphase nano- and micro-structured polymeric materials.

References related to these research topics

Sustainable Polymers

Sustainable Polymers

As the crude oil is depleting day by day, it is urgent to search for substituted resources for the manufacture of polymers which are nowadays highly dependent on the crude oil. Renewable plants are believed to be good candidates for the resources in the polymer manufacture, from the point of view of the sustainability concept. Sustainable polymers are those prepared from bio-derived starting materials (such as monomers, molecular modifiers, additives, etc.) and taking the eco-efficiency and environmental protection into account. We currently work, with Prof. Marc Hillmyer and Prof. Tom Hoye, on the synthesis of lactones from renewable resources, which are then applied on the preparation of bio-based (functionalized) polyesters and further to performance polymers, e.g., polyurethane foams, polyurethane elastomers, toughened polyesters, etc.

sustainpolymer.jpg— Liangliang Gu 

Cocontinuous Polymer Blends

Cocontinuous Polymer Blends

Polymeric materials melt-blended under certain conditions can form a cocontinuous morphology with two continuous, interpenetrating phases. With Professors Xiang Cheng and David Morse we are learning how the addition of nanoparticles or block copolymers can control the scale and improve the stability of these non-equilibrium morphologies. Block copolymers can also be generated during melt-blending by using reactive functional polymers. If one of the phases is removed from the blend via solvent extraction or etching, a continuous porous network is formed. This structure is being explored for potential applications in membrane support structures, tissue scaffolds, and battery separators.

–Lian Bai, Liangliang GuCocontinuous polymer

Nanocomposites

Nanocomposites

The addition of nanoparticles to polymers can greatly improve their mechanical, thermal, electrical properties. However, the properties of nanocomposites depend strongly on how well they are dispersed. We functionalize and modify graphene in order to increase its dispersibility into host polymers such as polyolefins. The morphology of dispersed nanofillers in the matrix polymers is investigated using electron microscopy, X-ray scattering and atomic force microscopy. Our research also involves synthesis, characterization and thin film coating applications of graphene oxide,which involves rheology and hydrodynamic modeling of dilute nanoparticles dispersion. With Professor Andreas Stein, we use surface modification to tune the dispersibility of graphene oxide in epoxies and unsaturated polyester resin in order to toughen these brittle thermosets.

–Siyao He, SungCik Mun, Yuqiang Qiannanocomposites

Melt Blown Nano-/Micro-fibers

Melt Blown Nano-/Micro-fibers

Melt blowing is a one-step process in which heated air jets stretch the extruded molten polymer filaments into micro- or nano-fibers with large specific surface area. We are advancing the technology to fabricate nano-/micro-fibers with unique surface wetting properties such as superhydrophobicity, optimizing the melt blown fibers’ performance in applications like filtration. We combine our research group expertise in rheology and polymer processing with Professor Frank Bates expertise in block copolymer and Professor Satish Kumar expertise in numerical simulation to shed light on various aspects of melt blown fibers. Experiments and simulations are performed in parallel to investigate the fiber diameter distribution, surface properties, and mechanical properties of melt blown nonwoven fibers.

–Iman Soltani, Joonsik Parkmelt blown nano

Multilayer Films and Polymer Adhesion

Multilayer Films and Polymer Adhesion

Multilayer films are commonly used in packaging applications and more recently to make reflective polarizers and other unique optical films. Most multilayer products contain two or more typically immiscible polymers and significant slip can occur during flow due to reduced entanglements at their interface. We are modifying the interface with block or graft copolymers, particularly those formed by reactive coupling, can eliminate slip and greatly enhance adhesion. We combine our research group expertise in rheology and processing with Professor Frank Bates’s expertise in block copolymers.

— Alex Jordan, Kyungtae Kimmultilayer films