July, 2018
Polymer Science and Engineering head recognized for pioneering work with functional materials

E. Bryan Coughlin, head of polymer science and engineering, has been selected as a 2018 fellow of the American Chemical Society(link is external), which recognizes members for outstanding achievements in and contributions to science, the profession and the society. The honor was announced in the society’s weekly magazine, Chemical & Engineering News.  

Coughlin is credited as a co-inventor of DuPont’s Versipol polyolefin technology platform and noted for his pioneering work in functional polymeric materials. He also served the society’s polymer science and materials engineering division in many leadership roles including chair, vice-chair, past chair, treasurer and membership chair and currently as a member of the finance committee. ACS’s 2018 fellows will be honored at a special ceremony during the national meeting on Aug. 20 at the Sheraton Boston Hotel. 

There are only about 1,000 ACS fellows among the society’s full membership of more than 157,000. Coughlin says, “I am proud to join my colleagues Todd Emrick who was elected in 2014, Greg Tew and Kenneth Carter who were elected in 2013 and Maria Santore who was elected in 2010.”

Read full article at CNS News

June, 2018
UMass Amherst Polymer Scientists Report Unexpected New Dynamics for Large DNA Molecules in Liquid Suspension

Polymer physicists at the University of Massachusetts Amherst are today reporting the unexpected and previously unknown behavior of a charged macromolecule such as DNA embedded in a charged hydrogel, where it displays what they call a “topologically frustrated” inability to move or diffuse in the gel, a phenomenon they describe in the current Nature Communications.

Polymer physicist professor Murugappan “Muthu” Muthukumar, with postdoctoral researcher Di Jia, used light-scattering techniques to study large DNA molecules’ behavior in a geomesh of 96 percent water, where they expected it to move very slowly, but to eventually diffuse as all previously known systems would behave.

Muthukumar explains, “Scientists have known for more than a century that all molecules have Brownian motion, that is they move around and diffuse, including DNA and other very large molecules. How fast they diffuse depends on the molecule, and large ones can be very slow. This is normal and is what we have observed for more than 100 years.”

Read full article at UMass News

June, 2018
Ramasubramaniam Leads Research on 2D Materials for Computing, Optics

Ashwin Ramasubramaniam, associate professor of mechanical and industrial engineering, is leading a joint U.S. and Israeli team of researchers looking for inexpensive, large-scale methods of fabrication of electronic and optical devices within single sheets of two-dimensional (2D) materials. The research is funded by a three-year, $450,000 grant from the National Science Foundation’s Division of Materials Research.

Two-dimensional materials are crystalline and composed of extremely thin sheets—one or a few atoms in thickness—with the potential to create smaller and faster electronic and optical devices. Existing methods for preparing such devices are not suited to 2D materials, however, so new approaches must be discovered that promote their easy integration into device construction.

“This project studies 2D materials that are coated with polymers, which can be applied with extreme precision to manipulate the physical and electronic properties at specific locations,” the researchers say. “This promotes inexpensive, large-scale fabrication of electronic and optical devices within single sheets of 2D materials, enabling applications in low-power, nanoscale, electronic and optical devices, including wearable and conformable devices.”

Read full article at UMass News

June, 2018
UMass Amherst Research Enhances Shark Skin-Inspired Antibacterial Coatings

 To limit hospital- and clinic-related infections, institutions have been using new materials, such as one commercially available that mimics shark skin, to inhibit microbes’ ability to stick to high-touch areas such as bed rails and door knobs. But given time, bacteria will accumulate, making this method insufficient, say researchers led by polymer scientist James Watkins at the University of Massachusetts Amherst.

Now in a report available early online today in the American Chemical Society journal ACS Applied Materials & Interfaces, Watkins and chemical engineer Jessica Schiffman, with a team of their graduate students, say they have designed an easily applied coating infused with photocatalytic antimicrobial titanium dioxide (TiO2) nanoparticles that decreases microbial attachment and deactivates those bacteria already attached to surfaces.

As they explain, when TiO2 nanoparticles are exposed to ultraviolet (UV) light, chemical reactions with water and hydroxide molecules form reactive hydroxyl radicals and superoxide ions that rupture the outer membranes of bacteria on contact and lead to cell death. Further, TiO2 nanoparticles are low-cost, widely available and can be incorporated into transparent coatings, unlike more commonly known antimicrobials such as silver and copper. “These advantages make TiO2 an attractive candidate for use in high-touch antimicrobial surface coatings,” they point out.

Read full article at UMass News

May, 2018
Hayward a Finalist for $250,000 Blavatnik National Award

The New York Academy of Sciences (NYAS) and the Blavatnik Family Foundation announced this week that polymer scientist and chemical engineer Ryan Hayward has been named a finalist for the 2018 Blavatnik National Awards in the physical sciences and engineering category.

Led by the family foundation and administered by NYAS, the national awards recognize “both the past accomplishments and the future promise of the most talented scientific and engineering researchers aged 42 years and younger at America’s top academic and research institutions.” Three 2018 winners, one from each of three categories – life sciences, chemistry, and physical sciences and engineering – will be announced on June 27.

Read full article at UMass News

April, 2018
UMass Amherst Takes Lead Role in New $7.5 Million Project to Develop Photomechanical Materials

Materials that can change shape when exposed to light hold great promise for new applications such as smart building materials that harness solar energy and remotely-controlled micro-robots, but even the most advanced materials developed to date lag far behind systems that operate on traditional chemical or electrical power sources, says polymer scientist Ryan Hayward at the University of Massachusetts Amherst.

Now, the Office of Naval Research has awarded Hayward as lead investigator and a team of researchers at UMass Amherst, the University of California, Riverside, Stanford University, the University of California, Santa Barbara, Kent State University, and the California Institute of Technology a five-year, $7.5 million Multidisciplinary University Research Initiative (MURI) grant to support fundamental research needed to design molecules and material architectures that efficiently convert photon energy into mechanical work.

Read full article: UMass News Office

March, 2018
Thayumanavan, Minter Focus on Drug Delivery System for Rheumatoid Arthritis

Two Institute of Applied Life Sciences (IALS) researchers, organic and polymer chemist Thai Thayumanavan and professor of animal science Lisa Minter, have partnered with Anika Therapeutics Inc. of Bedford to co-develop a new product for treating the autoimmune disease rheumatoid arthritis.

The work is part of Phase II of a continuing relationship between IALS and Anika.

Thayumanavan and Minter say this next phase of the collaboration builds on Thayumanavan’s expertise in delivering molecules into cells in a targeted and specific way and Minter’s expertise in autoimmune disease. They and the company will focus on research to optimize a drug delivery system to advance a new therapy candidate.

Read full article here: UMass News Office

February, 2018
UMass Amherst Physicists Speed Up Droplet-Wrapping Process

Experimental physicists at the University of Massachusetts Amherst today report that they have developed a fast, dynamic new process for wrapping liquid droplets in ultrathin polymer sheets, so what once was a painstaking process taking tens of minutes can now be done in a fraction of a second.

Physics professor Narayanan Menon, with current postdoctoral researcher Deepak Kumar, former postdoc Joseph Paulsen and professor of polymer science Thomas Russell, report their findings in the current issue of Science

As Menon explains, many research groups around the world are working on the problem of wrapping liquid droplets to stabilize emulsions, which can be useful in drug delivery systems, for example, or for remediating oil spills.

Read full article at the UMass News Office

February, 2018
UMass Amherst Polymer Scientist Maria Santore to Discuss Synthetic Systems that Mimic the Behavior of Biological Cells

Maria Santore, professor of polymer science and engineering will present a Distinguished Faculty Lecture titled “From the Surfaces of Cells to Materials Innovation: Synthetic Systems that Mimic the Behaviors of Biological Cells” on Tuesday, March 6 at 4 p.m. in the Great Hall of Old Chapel at the University of Massachusetts Amherst.  

When cells contact other cells or foreign objects, their responses can determine an organism’s survival. For example, reactions triggered at the surfaces of white blood cells amplify to produce organism scale behaviors, such as fighting infection or developing immunity.

Synthetic systems from the Santore lab recreate biological mechanisms that start at the surface and become large scale—examples will include materials that selectively scavenge, capture, kill or release targets in response to chemical and mechanical cues; control particle movement on surfaces; and assemble into molecularly thin force-responsive reconfigurable circuitry. These systems may ultimately facilitate biomedical devices, sensors, and protective gear or materials for energy harvesting.

Santore will be presented with the Chancellor’s Medal, the highest recognition bestowed to faculty by the campus, at the conclusion of the lecture. 

The event is free and open to the public and a reception follows the lecture. For information, call 413-577-1101.

The lecture series is sponsored by the Office of the Chancellor and the Office of the Provost.

From the UMass News Office, February 2018

December, 2017
Paving the Way for a Non-Electric Battery to Store Solar Energy

Materials chemists have been trying for years to make a new type of battery that can store solar or other light-sourced energy in chemical bonds rather than electrons, one that will release the energy on demand as heat instead of electricity–addressing the need for long-term, stable, efficient storage of solar power.

Now a group of materials chemists at the University of Massachusetts Amherst led by Dhandapani Venkataramanwith Ph.D. student and first author Seung Pyo Jeong, Ph.D. students Larry Renna, Connor Boyle andothers, report that they have solved one of the major hurdles in the field by developing a polymer-based system. It can yield energy storage density – the amount of energy stored – more than two times higher than previous polymer systems. Details appear in the current issueof Scientific Reports.

Read full article at: UMass News Office