Polymer Chemistry

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The high molecular weight, long-chain nature of polymers leads to unique behaviors, such as rubber-like elasticity, time- and processing-dependent flow and mechanical properties, and two-phase crystalline and amorphous solid-state morphologies.

All polymers, regardless of the detailed chemical structures of their repeat units, can exhibit such behaviors which distinguish them from small-molecule and atomic materials. As a consequence, life as we know it is based on polymers (proteins, DNA, RNA, etc.), and materials made from them dominate commerce. Their long chains permit polymers to assume an almost limitless number of conformations and overall sizes and shapes via facile rotations about their backbone bonds, thus giving them an internal degree of freedom to respond to stresses or their environment.

This internal or intra-chain degree of freedom is unavailable to small-molecule or atomic materials, thus the unique behaviors of polymers, which we call polymer physics.

On the other hand, the wide range in the degrees/magnitudes of the unique behaviors exhibited by different polymers (polymer physics) is due to their chemically distinct repeat units, which we call polymer chemistry. A component of our PCC Program entails discussions on how to synthesize, characterize, process, and understand the behaviors of polymers. Students are then well positioned for successful careers in the health and material-intensive fields. Some of the current research in the field includes the study of chitosan and its applications in biomedical fields, characterization and application of cyclodextrins, fiber/membrane forming polymers as well as melt, gel, dry and wet spinning of various polymers to produce high performance filaments. For a more specific list of projects please visit faculty pages listed.