Our center is focused on interdisciplinary innovation, asking researchers to integrate molecular structure with advanced physical property measurements while concurrently designing a sustainable manufacturing process. It is the concurrent design of molecular structure and a manufacturing modality that percolates across the center. We strive to establish a “culture of sustainability” in which the circularity of technology is considered at each step in the innovation process. This culture will nucleate creativity and demand more from our researchers than ever before.
Our efforts have resulted in recent novel depolymerization efforts, unprecedented formation of multiphase systems in water, the elimination of environmentally dangerous perfluorinated surfactants for fire suppression, more efficient and durable electronic devices, access to lighter weight 3D geometries of the most thermally stable polymeric materials for aerospace, and biocompatible gels to improve gynecological cancer therapies and outcomes. This center embraces the long-standing actions of reducing, recycling, and reusing plastics, however, the center now challenges researchers to rethink plastics. Plastics will continue to positively impact the quantity and quality of our lives, however, creating a circular plastics economy will address the negative impact on our ecosystem.
A recent example of our research describes novel polymerization chemistry to eliminate highly toxic isocyanate reagents from foam manufacturing. Moreover, advances in the rational design of foams results in less material needed, more durable materials to increase their use time and recycling pathways for polyurethanes to impart circularity to their applications.
The center aims to quickly rise as a top macromolecular science and engineering program in the nation coupled with a unique lens of sustainability. A use-inspired fundamental research perspective ensures that the center will strive for the highest standards of scholarship while effectively and efficiently translating discoveries to serve our local communities and the world.