This is a collaborative project between Prof. Jeremiah Johnson’s group (in Department of Chemistry, MIT) and Prof. Bradley Olsen’s group, which aims at developing advanced synthetic, characterization, theoretical and computational tools to study the structure and material properties of polymer networks.
Polymer networks are ubiquitous materials with applications that span a diverse range from commercial plastics, resins, and thermosets to modern tissue engineering scaffolds and organic photovoltaic devices. Despite over 100 years of interest in these materials, including enormous advances in their synthesis, theoretical modeling, and computational design, there are many aspects of network structure that are very difficult to precisely quantify. For example, topological defects, which include primary loops, high-order loop structures, and chain entanglements, are known to critically impact material properties such as mechanical strength and pore-size homogeneity. However, methods for probing the number of topological defects in real materials have been lacking. The negative impact of these topological defects on the material properties are also unknown. In order to develop novel polymeric materials for next-generation applications, increase the rate of material discovery, and allow for prediction of molecular structure and material properties de novo, the interplay between molecular topology and network formation conditions, as well as the correlations between the network topology and material properties must be established.
We acknowledge support from National Science Foundation DMREF program (CHE-1334703).