Our Core Values
Everyone - regardless of gender, sexuality, race, ethnicity, age, nationality, religion, ability, or socioeconomic status - is valued, welcomed, and respected in our group.
Our research program aims to generate fundamental science and engineering knowledge on the rational design of polymers for sustainability and train the next generation of engineers. We are passionate and committed to use our time and resources in developing sustainable solutions to the world’s most pressing polymer sustainability challenges. Our key research areas encompass:
(a) The efficient and sustainable conversion of nature-derived macromolecules into polymer building blocks and constituents
(b) The design of sustainable multi-phase and multifunctional polymer systems with recycling, biodegradation, and composting considerations
(c) Upcycling and recycling of polymers
(d) Applications of sustainable polymers for construction, packaging, food/agriculture/confectionary industries, and wastewater treatment
(e) Rubber/elastomer modification and processing
Sustainable polymer systems
The utilization of renewable resources for polymer production is receiving substantial interest. My group is interested in bio-based and renewable macromolecules (e.g. starch, cellulose, cellulose nanocrystals, lignin, biocarbon, tannins, and chitosan) as a feedstock to fabricate nanomaterials and a variety of sustainable materials including elastomers, plastics, hydrogels, engineering polymers, and nanocomposites. We employ various chemical tailoring strategies and polymer processing technologies to make these feedstocks more suitable for polymeric materials.
Polymer and rubber modifications
The chemical modification of polymers is a post-polymerization process, which is used both to improve and optimize the properties of existing polymers and introduce desirable functional attributes in the polymer. We focus on the design and development of modification processes/systems by utilizing chemistry and engineering tools. Some of the methods we use to modify polymers include reactive extrusion processes, hydrogenation, epoxidation, hydroxymethylation, and hydrosilylation of various polymers and elastomers/rubber, as well as grafting - from and grafting - to modifications.
Nanomaterials and nanocomposites
My research interest in nanomaterials focuses on innovating novel techniques for the synthesis, modification, characterization, and applications of renewable polymer-based nanomaterials. I have targeted functional nanomaterials with attributes for antimicrobial carriers, UV shielding properties, corrosion inhibiting additives, oxygen-scavenging films, superhydrophobic coatings, and dipped rubber goods. A critical challenge in nanocomposite research is to translate the exceptional nanoscale properties of nanomaterials to the macroscale, which relies on the dispersion of nanomaterials, selection of matrices, and optimization of composite microstructures. Various load-bearing natural composites such as teeth, turtle shells, egg shells, bones, and wood exemplify the importance of order and hierarchy starting at the nanoscale to tangible macroscopic levels. Drawing from these inspirations, my team aims to achieve similar multiphase and multifunctional polymeric materials via appropriate polymeric matrix selection along with composite architectures to ensure the multi-parameter property optimizations for corresponding applications. We develop nanocomposites based on cellulose nanocrystals, lignin nanoparticles, fumed silica, nanoclays, nano-biocarbon, carbon nanofibers, and graphene.
Polymer processing and application development
My research in polymer processing is focused on polymer blend morphology development and stabilization with a focus on multiphase renewable polymers. We target the challenges associated with microstructure –processing – properties of polymer blends and their stabilization using chemistry and polymer processing tools to optimize the dispersion of nanoparticles in various single and multiphase polymer matrices for functional applications. Working with industrial collaborators, we support application development efforts in packaging materials, lightly cured rubber latex products (e.g. gloves and condoms), highly cured rubber products (tire treads, shoe soles, conveyor belts), barrier films, coatings and paint, adhesives, and engineering composites with functional attributes.