(14ai) Design of Functional Polymeric Materials: From Ion Transport to Bio-Inspired Assembly

Research Interests:

Engineering of polymer-inorganic hybrid materials with structure control from the nanoscale to the mesoscale has remained elusive, especially in comparison to biological composites such as nacre and bone. However, the ability to synthetically design highly crystalline, hierarchically structured, and well-ordered inorganic and composite materials is desired in fields ranging from biomaterials to energy. My research platform will focus on the development of polymer systems with chemical and sequence control focusing on three areas: (1) understanding the fundamental interactions between polymers and inorganics during self-assembly process via in-situ techniques, (2) combining these fundamentals with polymer self-assembly to engineer high performance hierarchical inorganic materials for energy storage and catalysis, and (3) responsive assembly of polymeric nanoparticles for healthcare.

This research program builds upon my Ph.D. work, undertaken at UC Santa Barbara under the guidance of Profs. Glenn Fredrickson, Ed Kramer, and Craig Hawker, which elucidated the interactions between polymers and ions for lithium-ion batteries. I focused on the development of poly(allyl glycidyl ether) (PAGE) as an alternative platform for lithium battery polymer electrolytes. The versatility of allyl glycidyl ether as a building block was demonstrated by the preparation and evaluation of various AGE-EO macromolecular architectures that show superior performance to both PAGE and PEO by utilizing copolymerization and thiolene coupling chemistry. Furthermore, in order to develop design rules for polymer electrolytes, a library of structurally similar polyethers, poly(glycidyl ether)s (PGEs) was synthesized by anionic polymerization and investigated by impedance measurements, dielectric spectroscopy, and pulse field gradient NMR to understand the role of polymer chemistry on ion diffusion.

I have taken this interest in controlling polymer chemistry and its effect on composite components to my current postdoctoral position at Cornell University with Prof. Uli Wiesner and Prof. Lara Estroff, where we seek to combine the long-range periodic structure direction of block copolymers with the increased information content provided by sequence control in proteins to generate highly controlled composite materials. Knowledge of inorganic crystallization pathways has been developed through in-situ GIWAXS studies of early formation pathways in hybrid organic-inorganic pathways.

Teaching Interests:

My teaching interests are in polymer physics, polymer chemistry, thermodynamics, and introductory materials science.


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