Three exceptional young polymer scientists were awarded the 2018 Journal of Polymer Science poster prize for the Division of Polymer Physics (DPOLY) at the March American Physical Society (APS) meeting.
Some polymer gels are capable of extremely large extensions. Danielle Mai (Chemical Engineering, Massachusetts Institute of Technology) shows that remarkable engineering strains are achieved by incorporating entanglements into an associative protein hydrogel. In situ laser light scattering and small-angle X-ray scattering findings suggest that bulk chain alignment occurs, which is a behavior that is not observed in unentangled gels.
Using computational methods, Rituparna Samanta (Chemical Engineering, University of Texas at Austin) investigates a system of charged nanoparticles in an oppositely charged polyelectrolyte solution. When the dielectric constant of the solution is inhomogeneous, increased particle repulsion causes less aggregation. The behavior becomes more complex and interesting in the presence of oppositely charged polymers with low dielectric constant because of electrostatic and depletion effects.
The ability to manipulate materials by generating work from light has profound implications in deformable optics. Alexa Kuenstler (Polymer Science and Engineering, University of Massachusetts, Amherst) incorporates metallic nanorods into liquid crystal networks for photothermal actuation. When visible light shines on these elastomer nanocomposites, the materials generate up to 30% strain. The optical and mechanical properties, deformation kinetics, and a heat transfer model are presented.
Congratulations to Danielle, Rituparna, and Alexa!