Center for Polymer Science and Engineering

 

The interdisciplinary Center for Polymer Science and Engineering is composed of three major research areas: polymer colloids, polymer interfaces, and polymer materials.

Polymer colloids are a class of polymers manufactured in the form of fine dispersions of polymer particles in aqueous or nonaqueous media. This class of polymers finds wide commercial application in synthetic rubber, surface coatings, paints, adhesives, impact modifiers, toners for image development, and in the biomedical and biotechnology fields. Lehigh's Emulsion Polymers Institute, the only institute of its kind in the world, maintains a broad range of research projects on various forms of polymer colloids.

Programs include the preparation of monosize polymer particles and analysis of the parameters controlling the morphology of composite polymer particles. In one project, for example, we are investigating the polymerization of large, monodispersed latex particles. These polymerizations, carried out in zero gravity aboard the Challenger Space Laboratory, yielded the first chemical products produced in space.

Separation of latex particles by electrophoresis, particle-size analysis by hydrodynamic chromatography, and rheological properties of latexes and thickeners are the subject of other projects. New programs are being initiated in adsorbing and binding biopolymer molecules, such as proteins, enzymes, and cells, to latex particles for potential applications in the areas of cell culture, diagnostic and therapeutic treatments, and drug delivery.

The area of polymers surfaces and interfaces, a relatively new thrust at Lehigh University, has been given significant impetus with the funding of an NSF Industry/University Cooperative Research Center, The Polymer Interfaces Center. There are three principal themes:


Adsorption/Characterization

Wetting/Adhesion

Mechanical behavior

Typical research involves characterizing the behavior of water-soluble associative polymers on colloidal surfaces, altering polymer surfaces to promote adhesion, and studying interfacial aspects of film formation. Important applications of this research relate to paints and adhesives, water purification, and stabilization of colloids.

The Engineering Polymers Laboratory investigates a wide range of polymer problems, emphasizing the behavior of bulk polymer materials. The major research focus relates to multicomponent polymers and composites. The interrelationships among synthesis, morphology, processing, and properties constitute major areas of interest. Current research emphasizes interpenetrating polymer networks, a new type of polymer blend, the core-shell structure of latexes used to toughen epoxy plastics, fibers and composites as structural members, and the relationships between interdiffusion depth and mechanical properties development during film formation from latexes. Other areas of interest include sound and vibration damping with polymers, elucidation of the mechanisms controlling fatigue in plastics, polymers and IPN's from agricultural oils, and polymer crystallization kinetics. Applications to the polymer industry include the toughening of plastics and films, renewable resource materials, and biomedical devices.

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