Contact Waterloo Institute for Nanotechnology
Mike & Ophelia Lazaridis Quantum-Nano Centre, Room 3606
University of Waterloo
200 University Ave. W.
Waterloo, ON. N2L 3G1
+1 519 888 4567, ext.38654
Research interests: nanocomposite materials; self-assembly, soft condensed matter physics
Professor Russell Thompson’s group conducts research with the aim of gaining understanding of the rules of self-assembly in soft matter systems. These rules of self-assembly operate on a length scale of one-billionth of a metre: the length scale of nanoscience.
Thompson joined the Department of Physics and Astronomy at the University of Waterloo in 2004, continuing his theoretical focus on nanoscale self-assembly. His research has benefited from strong collaboration with other members of the Waterloo Institute for Nanotechnology.
Thompson earned his PhD from the Joint Programme for Theoretical Physics of the University of Western Ontario and then assumed a post-doctorial fellowship at the University of Reading in England where his present interest in self-assembling nanoscale systems began. Thompson pursued his interest in block copolymers and their self-assembly in Department of Chemical and Petroleum Engineering at the University of Pittsburgh, where he developed novel theory for self- assembling nanocomposite materials. These are systems that are under study for use in, for example, photonic band-gap materials, nanoporous materials and high density memory elements. His work continued at Los Alamos National Laboratory where Thompson developed theory to predict the mechanical response of both block copolymer nanocomposites and traditional copolymer systems.
- PhD, University of Western Ontario
- MSc, University of Regina
- BSc, University of Ottawa
Research to benefit drug distribution in the body
Professor Thompson’s group is developing theory for self-assembling, biomimetic membranes that are of interest in drug delivery, nanoreactors and nanoparticle formation. These membranes are made from synthetic polymer molecules and, when they form vesicles (nanometre to micrometre sized compartments, or “bags”), they can potentially be used to carry drugs for distribution in the body. These “polymersomes” have already been shown as effective as nanometre-sized chemical reaction vessels for building nanoparticles. The Thompson group is doing field theory calculations to determine if polymersomes can be improved by sequestering nanoparticles within the membranes; this would mimic naturally forming membranes which often incorporate proteins.
Improving polymer material composition
Another project deals with the industrially important polymer property of surface tension and how it is different for nanometre sized structures. Polymer foams are made by injecting gas into a polymer material to make small cells or voids. The resulting product can be lighter, cheaper and have other beneficial properties compared to regular polymer materials. Polymer foams are used in many manufactured products, and it has been observed that when more, smaller voids are used, the products are often improved. A natural extension of this is to try to make a very large number of very small, nanometre-size cells in order to make the best products possible. The behaviour of very small cells can, however, be different from larger ones, and so the Thompson group is using field-theoretic techniques to understand the science of so-called “nanocellular” polymer foams.
- Self-assembled nanostructures
- Nanocomposite materials
- Theory of block copolymers
- Self-consistent field theory
- Polymer surface tension
- “Nanoparticle-regulated behavior of ordered block copolymers”, Soft Matter (Communication) 4, 2008
- “Effect of Temperature and Pressure on Surface Tension of Polystyrene in Supercritical Carbon Dioxide”, Journal of Physical Chemistry B, 2007
- “Predicting nonpolymeric materials structure with real-space self-consistent ﬁeld theory”, Physical Review E Rapid Communications 73, 2006
- “Origins of elastic properties in ordered block copolymer/nanoparticle composites”, Nanoletters 4, 2004
- “Predicting the mesophases of copolymer/nanoparticle composites”, Science 292, #5526, 2001