Tuesday, December 6, 2022

Joe Patterson’s CAREER Award application, entitled "Ring-Opening Polymerization-Induced Crystallization-Driven Self-Assembly”, has been funded by the NSF’s Division of Materials Research. Congratulations to Professor Patterson on his CAREER Award from the NSF! 

Read the abstract for his proposal below: 

Polymers are essential for our everyday lives. They are used in packaging, medicines and medical devices, electronics, and in 3D printing. However, the polymer industry faces several big challenges. Polymers often end up in landfills, the ocean, and our bodies where they cause environmental and biological harm. In addition, the polymer industry generates a large amount of greenhouse gases due to its high energy demand. This project will aid our transition towards a sustainable polymer industry by developing and studying energy efficient chemistries to create biodegradable, biocompatible, and renewably sourced polymeric materials. To achieve this goal, this project will study how polymers organize themselves into different structures. This is important because the properties of polymeric materials are dependent on how they organize at the nano-, micro- and macro- scales. Electron microscopes will be utilized in this project to watch the polymers organize into structures in real time. This knowledge will help us to understand why different chemistries and different polymers form into different types of structures. Ultimately, this knowledge will help us to design polymers with useful properties using sustainable chemistries. Through this project, the next generation of polymer scientists will be trained on advanced analytical tools to provide a fundamental understanding of how polymer chemistry works. Furthermore, the diversity and retention in polymer science will be impacted by using inclusive teaching and mentoring practices throughout the project.

The objective for this CAREER project is to develop methods to understand and control the mechanisms that drive ring-opening polymerization-induced crystallization-driven self-assembly of block copolymers. Investigation of the mechanisms and structures will be achieved by developing reactions to control the thermodynamics and kinetics of polymerization and self-assembly and by utilizing liquid and cryogenic electron microscopy and X-ray scattering methods. To provide a link between the polymer chemistry and the formation of hierarchical structures, the project will study the relationship between reaction rates and self-assembly mechanisms. The research themes are tightly integrated into educational activities, including the development of a new, joint graduate-undergraduate level course, which will be developed into an online course through the UCI OpenChem program. Additionally, active learning methods in general chemistry and K-12 polymer-based outreach modules will be developed. The integrated educational and research plans meet the urgent needs of transitioning towards a sustainable materials economy and training diverse students in the fundamentals of analytical polymer science, preparing them to enter and lead the future STEM workforce.