Career: Self-Organization of Amphiphilic Block Copolymers for the Preparation of Highly Ordered Materials: A Research and Education Program
Paschalis Alexandridis Principal Investigator
MetadataShow full item record
ABSTRACT<br/>CTS-9875848<br/>P. Alexandridis<br/>SUNY<br/><br/>The ability of amphiphilic molecules to organize at various configurations and lengthscales allows multiple levels of organization, often with remarkable precision. In additional to all living creatures being manifestations of such self-organization (e.g. lipid cell membranes), numerous technical products and processes that involve, e.g., surfactants and copolymers, are taking advantage of properties (compartmentalization, compatibilization, rheological) afforded by self-organization.<br/><br/>The present investigation focuses on amphiphilic block copolymers, macromolecules consisting of hydro(solvo)philic and hydro(solvo)phobic blocks (or grafts), that are very interesting from the aspect of both formulations and materials synthesis, and offer advantages over typical surfactants. The macromolecular nature of the amphiphilic block copolymers affords great flexibility in setting the desired morphology, and allows a considerable variation of the length- and time-scales characteristic to the microstructure. An important degree of freedom (compared to "solvent-free" block copolymers) is the presence of selective solvent(s), that can modulate the phase behavior and structure, and also act as suitable media for chemical synthesis.<br/><br/>The goals of the research are two-fold: to achieve a desired microstructure via means of self-organization of amphiphilic block copolymers and to stabilize such microstructure for the synthesis of microporous materials. To this end, it is planned to study the self-assembly of amphiphilic block copolymers under equilibrium conditions and utilize this knowledge to prepare formulations offering desired compartmentalization and release properties, use shear for aligning microdomains and inducing order over long ranges, investigate mass transport in ordered systems in the context of structure formation and dissolution, and explore the synthesis of ordered materials via the crosslinking of the amphiphiles participating in the structure or via polymerization in the solvent domains.<br/><br/>In the education front, having recognized the fact that the pharmaceutical, personal care products, and food industries, where amphiphiles are primarily used, are emerging fields for employment of chemical engineers, it is proposed to develop a curriculum wit courses on colloids, polymers, surfaces, and advanced materials, and incorporate research term-projects into these courses and involve undergraduate students at various steps of the proposed research. On a more general level, cooperative learning and learning by objective will be introduced to all courses, with a specific interest in the Introduction to Chemical Engineering sophomore course. Outreach activities to high schools and to community colleges will aim in introducing chemical engineering as well as colloids and polymers to abroader audience. Overall, the educational plan aims in promoting creativity, providing an enriching environment for graduate and undergraduate research, and fully integrating research and educational activities.