The research objective of this grant is to determine if the conformation of a single polymer molecule on a surface can be accurately determined using the scanning probe microscope. This objective will be achieved by synthesizing alternating block copolymers comprised of well-defined surface affinities and molecular structures, imaging these molecules adsorbed onto a variety of surfaces, and then using dynamic force spectroscopy to repeatedly adsorb and detach the molecule from each of these surfaces. Correlation of the forces required to detach the molecule from a given surface with its molecular composition and structure will enable identification of the three-dimensional polymer?s interfacial structure.
If successful, this interdisciplinary collaborative effort will lead to a better understanding of how polymeric coatings interact with underlying surfaces and improved control over the interfacial properties of materials. Understanding the adsorption, desorption and conformation of polymers on substrates is extremely important in defining colloidal material interactions. Colloidal interactions are important in biomass conversion into biofuels, oil recovery, mining, food processing, papermaking, and water treatment. This interdisciplinary project involves students from under-represented groups and faculty from chemistry, chemical engineering and mechanical engineering working together to meet the research goals. Multiple undergraduate and graduate courses in the Schools of Chemistry & Biochemistry, Chemical & Biomolecular Engineering, and Mechanical Engineering at Georgia Tech will be enhanced.