Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Pursuing problematic polymers

Date:
November 16, 2012
Source:
Dartmouth College
Summary:
Polymers, in everything from shopping bags to ski boots, make our material world what it is today. Researchers are working to understand their structure and predict their behavior.

"You look at the material world and see objects and how you can use them. I look at the material world and see a fascinating hidden life which is within our control, if we can only understand how it works," says Jane Lipson, the Albert W. Smith Professor of Chemistry at Dartmouth. Lipson looks at things from the point of view of both a chemist and a physicist. "What I do lies between the two sciences, and there is some engineering thrown in there, too," she says.

Lipson is a polymer chemist who, by definition, deals with long chain molecules composed of repeating structural units. She constructs mathematical models that can explain and predict the behavior of these molecules. "The math is a shortcut to the physical behavior. You look at it and it is a bunch of equations, but there is actual physical behavior in there," she says.

While many think of polymers only as plastics, these ubiquitous materials appear in many guises with which we interact daily. From our Styrofoam coffee cups to the clothes we wear, to the furniture on which we sit, and the cars in which we ride, our use of polymers is extensive.

In the industrial sector, there is a great deal of interest in optimizing the properties of existing materials for specific applications and in designing new polymers for particular uses. The applications range from drug delivery systems, to films that will purify or protect, to construction materials, to new airplane or auto components. In the search for the best, the strongest, the lightest, the most enduring polymers, Lipson and her colleagues have become polymer problem solvers who are particularly focused on outreach to experimentalists.

A polymer may be a compound, created by joining molecules together in a process not unlike gene splicing, building a pure molecular compound comprising one very large molecule. Lipson explains that creating a new polymer from scratch is hugely expensive and unpredictable. The monomers -- the small molecules that link up together to make a polymer -- may not even want to react to make that chain.

"The preferred alternative is to take an existing polymer that has one set of desirable properties but not everything you are looking for, and select another polymer with the properties that you also want. You try and mix the two together to make what is called a composite that exhibits additive or novel properties," says Lipson.

Both approaches, synthesizing compounds or mixing composites, can be a guessing game, opening a door for consulting chemists to impart some clarity and direction. Enter Lipson and company.

Lipson's research involves developing theories that will make predictions about what will mix and what won't mix; and if it does mix, under what conditions that will occur. Lipson says you cannot necessarily predict what the mixture's properties will be, even if you know the properties of the constituents. "You can't just add the properties together," she says. "You can't say, for instance, that this polymer melts at 100 degrees and the other polymer melts at 50 degrees, so I am just going to mix two equal amounts and they'll melt at 75 degrees. It doesn't work like that."

These are complex molecules that Lipson tries to understand and then, based on her conclusions, develop rules that can be applied to make predictions. "Part of what we do is test our predictions, then make new predictions, and apply these to more complicated systems," she says. "We try and understand molecules large and small, why they behave the way they do, and then use that to our advantage."


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by Dartmouth College. The original article was written by Joseph Blumberg. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Cite This Page:

Dartmouth College. "Pursuing problematic polymers." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 16 November 2012. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/11/121116124648.htm>.
Dartmouth College. (2012, November 16). Pursuing problematic polymers. ScienceDaily. Retrieved April 24, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/11/121116124648.htm
Dartmouth College. "Pursuing problematic polymers." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/11/121116124648.htm (accessed April 24, 2014).

Share This



More Matter & Energy News

Thursday, April 24, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

UN Joint Mission Starts Removing Landmines in Cyprus

UN Joint Mission Starts Removing Landmines in Cyprus

AFP (Apr. 23, 2014) The UN mission in Cyprus (UNFICYP) led a mine clearance demonstration on Wednesday in the UN-controlled buffer zone where demining operations are being conducted near the Cypriot village of Mammari. Duration: 01:00 Video provided by AFP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Air Force: $4.2B Saved from Grounding A-10s

Air Force: $4.2B Saved from Grounding A-10s

AP (Apr. 23, 2014) Speaking about the future of the United States Air Force, Chief of Staff Gen. Mark Welsh says the choice to divest the A-10 fleet was logical and least impactful. (April 23) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Jets Fuel Jump in Boeing's Revenue

Jets Fuel Jump in Boeing's Revenue

Reuters - Business Video Online (Apr. 23, 2014) A sharp rise in revenue for commercial jets offset a decline in Boeing's defense business. And a big increase in deliveries lifted profitability. Fred Katayama reports. Video provided by Reuters
Powered by NewsLook.com
Is North Korea Planning Nuclear Test #4?

Is North Korea Planning Nuclear Test #4?

Newsy (Apr. 22, 2014) South Korean officials say North Korea is preparing to conduct another nuclear test, but is Pyongyang just bluffing this time? Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:

Breaking News:
from the past week

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile: iPhone Android Web
Follow: Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe: RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins