Molecular Design and Engineering of Materials for Advanced Functionality
The forefront of chemical science research lies in the manipulation and analysis of single molecules. To this end, the ability to control molecular processes holds the key to developing new materials with desired functionalities. Major challenges in the field of materials chemistry include the ability to: (a) control the underlying structure of materials during flow processing and (b) synthesize “precise” materials with defined shapes and structures. During his Center appointment, Professor Schroeder will continue to lead his group’s research efforts to achieve these abilities.
One area of focus extends the field of single-polymer dynamics to new materials, including flexible chains, copolymers, and branched polymers, to gain improved ability to control the properties of materials during processing. In this effort, the group is using single-molecule imaging to study polymer dynamics, directly “watching” polymer motion during processing. This work will bridge the gap between molecular phenomena and bulk-scale behavior.
Another focus involves “grabbing onto” single polymer molecules using microfluidic trapping. With this technique, single polymers or nanoparticles in free solution are confined and manipulated using the action of gentle fluid flow in a microfluidic device. The technique offers the promise of synthesizing new materials by fluidic-directed assembly or fine-scale patterning of nanomaterials.
In coupling molecular-scale characterization with synthesis, the group aims to produce synthetic biopolymers that have new structures, tunable material properties, and novel functions – ultimately creating new template-based synthesis schemes that mimic the control found in nature, thereby offering a powerful approach to the design and engineering of new materials.