The Environmental Chemical Sciences (ECS) program of the Division of Chemistry will support the research program of Prof. Zhan Chen of the University of Michigan. Prof. Chan and his students will employ sum frequency generation (SFG) and coherent anti-Stokes Raman scattering (CARS) spectroscopy to reveal segregation and molecular structures of phthalates, which are commonly used plasticizers, on polymer surfaces and on environmentally important model surfaces/interfaces. The study aims to increase our understanding of degradation mechanisms of phthalates on surfaces and in bulk media, and to elucidate molecular mechanisms of various surface modification methods to prevent/reduce phthalate leaching from polymer systems.
The study will probe for the first time the interfacial behavior of phthalates at environmentally important surfaces and interfaces in situ. It will provide molecular correlations between phthalate structure on environmentally relevant surfaces and interfaces and their leaching and degradation properties. The project will ultimately aid in the design and development of methodologies to reduce and minimize phthalates' negative impacts on the environment and human health. The study will provide an excellent educational opportunity for undergraduate and graduate students to carry out a fundamental research project of great societal importance.