Krishnamoorti The underlying theme motivating this CAREER education and research plan is the need to understand and disseminate fundamental scientific knowledge regarding materials, specifically polymeric materials, with the perspective of the final application of such knowledge. The research plan will focus on understanding the role of process variables on properties of multi-phase polymeric materials. Despite the widespread use of multi-phase polyolefin blends, little rigorous information regarding the effect of process variables such as pressure and shear are available on their phase behavior. With the focus on recycling of polymers, with minimal sorting or raw materials, and the advent of novel metallocene catalysts has highlighted the need to understand the melt state and crystalline state phase behavior of polyolefin blends. Using model polyolefins, specifically ethylene rich ethylene-butene-1 random copolymers, we propose to study the effect of pressure on the melt state liquid-liquid phase behavior and the solid state structure of the blend. By carefully controlling the molecular weight and the comonomer composition of each of the components, the bulk ambient pressure melt state phase behavior and component crystallization behavior can be carefully tailored. With this capability, using high pressure small angle neutron scattering, small angle x-ray scattering and small angle light scattering we envisage to gain a thorough understanding of the parameters governing the solid state structure and properties. Further, by focusing on thin film behavior in both the melt and the solid state, we plan to establish the three dimensional structure in such films using atomic force microscopy and neutron reflectivity. Issues such as the effects of confinement on the crystallization characteristics and on the melt state phase behavior will be investigated. Such information is vital in understanding the role of interphases in controlling the final structure and hence properties. Finally, preliminary studies relating the final properties in the solid state to the structure and processing are proposed. %%% Integrating non-traditional disciplines such as materials and polymer science to the fundamental scientific core of chemical engineering is essential for the continued success of this discipline. Additionally, the demands of an urban university located in the heart of the nation's petrochemical and polymer industries, require unique techniques for training, re-training and dissemination of knowledge. Mentoring of undergraduate and high school students in materials research is proposed. It is also proposed to use the latest technological innovations such as video link ups as well as the web as tools to supplement traditional classes. In addition an introductory course for senior undergraduates and graduate students elucidating the principles and practice of polymer science and engineering is envisaged. Finally, a short course is also planned in order to update industrial audiences of the latest advances in the area of nano and micro structured materials. ***

National Science Foundation (NSF)
Division of Materials Research (DMR)
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Andrew J. Lovinger
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University of Houston
United States
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