Natural materials, such as spider silk, wood, and seed pods, are excellent models for the design of polymeric systems that respond to complex and interacting environments, and that exhibit controlled and modular mechanical behavior under low energy conditions and with a limited set of chemical building blocks. Bio-inspired design cuts across academic disciplines, such as biology, medicine, materials science and engineering, chemical engineering, and business; and engages a range of industries and national laboratories. Our group use architectural features, such as gradients, anisotropy, and hierarchy, and strategic manufacturing techniques, such as molecular level assembly and fiber/composite extrusion, to design functional, responsive, and adaptable polymeric materials inspired by natural systems and to drive new avenues of technology impacting sensing, robotics, and healthcare technology.

Graduate student: Jessica Thomas, Catherine Lewis

Graduate Student: Jessica Thomas

Graduate student: Francis Klincewics

Postdoctoral associate: Dr. Subhash Kalidindi

Graduate student: Francis Klincewicz, Maida Mahmood

Bio-derivable polymers have drawn significant attention as potential replacements for petrochemical-derived options to create more sustainable materials. Lignin, a by-product of the paper and pulp industry, is an attractive source of diverse, abundant, and inexpensive aromatic precursors for high-performance macromolecular design. Our group designs high-performance, lignin-derivable thermoplastics and thermosets, building structure-activity-function-processing maps to facilitate application matching and to enable film, fiber, foam, and composite manufacturing.

Graduate student: Yu-Tai Wong, Sampanna Mhatre, Haesoo Lee

Graduate Student: Jignesh Mahajan, Sampanna Mhatre, Jackie Arnold

Graduate student: Yu-Tai Wong, Jackie Arnold

Plastics are indispensable in modern life, but their rapid growth and limited reuse has led to a global waste crisis. It is imperative to adopt valorization strategies to tackle the complexities of plastics waste streams. Our group focuses on chemical deconstruction and upgrading approaches to achieve circularity in the plastics lifecycle. We integrate waste valorization efforts with a deeper understanding of the polymer chemistry and complex thermal, mechanical, and physical properties to develop pathways, which address end-of-life challenges and advance the development of next-generation materials towards a transition to a circular plastics economy.

Postdoctoral associate: Dr. Alex Balzer, Dr. Zoé Schyns

Associated with Center for Plastics Innovation (CPI)