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Research Projects

Our research is focused around the theme that polymer composition and structure determine material performance. We focus on the synthesis and characterization of polymers that provide tailored performance properties.

Glycidyl Carbamate Crosslinking

The glycidyl carbamate functional group offers some unique opportunities in the formation of thermosetting polymers. In addition to providing epoxide functionality, glycidyl carbamate functional polymers also contain carbamate or urethane groups. Thus, the reactivity of an epoxy resin is combined with the physical properties obtained with polyurethanes. We have also discovered that glycidyl carbamate functional oligomers will thermally self-crosslink and will also crosslink with multifunctional amines. Kinetic experiments have shown that the glycidyl carbamate epoxy is more reactive than conventional glycidyl ether epoxides. Physical properties of the coatings are also excellent and have an excellent combination of both hardness and flexibility. Ongoing research involves studying the structure-property relationships of a variety of thermosets prepared using glycidyl carbamate functional materials. A solvent free waterborne resin is also being developed.

Combinatorial and High Throughput Polymer Science

To be able to explore a wide variety of compositions in a short period of time we are using combinatorial and high throughput synthesis and screening methods. Our laboratory now consists of two automated systems for polymer synthesis, a formulation system, automated coating application system, rapid GPC, high throughput FTIR, surface energy and adhesion measurement systems, and a parallel DMTA.

The Combinatorial Materials Research Laboratory (CMRL) is housed in the Center for Nanoscale Science and Engineering

Non-toxic Fouling-Release Coatings for Naval Vessels

Fouling of ship hulls by marine organisms is a significant problem since it degrades ship performance due to increased drag, resulting in increased fuel consumption. For the past 40 years, prevention of fouling has been accomplished using coatings containing tributyl tin (TBT) that kills organisms that attempt to settle on the coating surface. However, TBT also harms the ecology of harbors, and is being banned in many countries. Alternative biocidal compounds are being used to replace TBT, but the ideal coating should not leach any toxic chemicals into the water.

One approach that has been explored is what is called a foul-release coating (FR). The FR coating does not necessarily prevent organism settlement, but only allows a weak bond to form between the organism and the coating. When the ship leaves the harbor and obtains cruising speed, the shear forces at the hull are sufficient to clean the organisms form the surface. Coating compositions that function effectively have been designed, however, these tend to be very soft and are easily damaged. Thus a need still exists for a FR coating that provides a minimally adhesive surface and is also durable.

Our approach is to synthesize crosslinked siloxane-polyurethane coatings that will self-stratify into a soft and low surface energy siloxane outerlayer, with a tough durable polyurethane sublayer. Using the CMRL, we are synthesizing a large number of organic end-functional polydimethyl siloxane polymers and exploring a large number of reactants for the polyurethane component.

Use of Biobased Raw Materials For Coatings and Composites

Novel types of resins from seed oils and other naturally occurring raw materials are being explored in several projects. Thiol and ene-functional soybean oil derivatives have been synthesized for use in UV curable solvent free coatings. The use of fatty acid esters of sucrose in coatings systems is being explored. Waterborne emulsions of the sucrose esters have been prepared and sucrose esters contaning other functional groups are also being synthesized.

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