Analysis and Optimization of Polymer Networks for Emerging Applications 2013
This project seeks to develop experimental and theoretical strategies for identifying and counting the number of defects in the networks. Such information will permit the preparation of hydrogels with fewer defects and superior properties and could lead to novel materials for biomedical technologies and water purification membranes, amongst many applications. The project involves a closely integrated collaboration between experimental work and computational studies to develop a technique for the quantitative analysis of defects in polymer networks. Novel polymer network materials with dynamic crosslinks and isotopic labeling will be synthesized and their defect contents will be characterized as a function of the synthetic conditions. New theoretical and computational methods will be developed for the analysis of network structure and correlated with the experimental results. The broader impacts of the project involve the potential technological benefits of better understanding the structure of polymer network materials, training graduate and undergraduate students in interdisciplinary science, enhancing research infrastructure through the establishment of strong collaborations between experiment and theory groups, and developing hands-on teaching modules on polymer gels aimed at middle school students.