May, 2016
UMass Amherst Department of Polymer Science and Engineering Celebrates 50th Anniversary

The department of polymer science and engineering (PSE), among the elite in the world, is celebrating PSE50, its 50th anniversary, with a two-day reunion and symposium.

Events include presentations on Thursday, May 12 by distinguished graduates—among them astronaut Catherine “Cady” Coleman and Tisato Kajiyama, in 1969 the program’s first Ph.D. graduate and president of Fukuoka Women’s University in Japan.

Details on the PSE50 Reunion

March, 2016
A New Model for How Twisted Bundles Take Shape

In the current issue of Nature Materials, polymer scientists Greg Grason, Douglas Hall and Isaac Bruss at the University of Massachusetts Amherst, with Justin Barone at Virginia Tech, identify for the first time the factors that govern the final morphology of self-assembling chiral filament bundles. They also report experimental results supporting their new model.

At the molecular level, Grason explains, chiral filament bundles are many-stranded, self-twisting, yarn-like structures. One example are amyloid fibers, assemblies of misfolded proteins linked to diseases like Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s. Many other proteins take this shape, including collagen, the most abundant protein in the body, and sickle-hemoglobin proteins found in sickle-cell anemia. But how they attain their final size and shape has not been well understood.

Read full story at: UMass Amherst News Office

February, 2016
New Discovery at UMass Amherst May Lead to More Efficient Solar and Opto-Electronic Devices

Chemists and polymer scientists collaborating at the University of Massachusetts Amherst report in Nature Communications this week that they have for the first time identified an unexpected property in an organic semiconductor molecule that could lead to more efficient and cost-effective materials for use in cell phone and laptop displays, for example, and in opto-electronic devices such as lasers, light-emitting diodes and fiber optic communications.

Physical chemist Michael Barnes and polymer scientist Alejandro Briseño, with doctoral students Sarah Marques, Hilary Thompson, Nicholas Colella and postdoctoral researcher Joelle Labastide, discovered the property, directional intrinsic charge separation, in crystalline nanowires of an organic semiconductor known as 7,8,15,16-tetraazaterrylene (TAT).

Read full story at: UMass Amherst News Office

February, 2016
UMass Amherst Team Offers New, Simpler Law of Complex Wrinkle Patterns

In a new paper, researchers at the University of Massachusetts Amherst and Oxford University describe a new, more general law for predicting the wavelength of complex wrinkle patterns, including those found on curved surfaces, plus experimental results to support it.

The work is expected to help materials scientists to use wrinkles to sculpt surface topography, or to use the wrinkles on surfaces to infer the properties of the underlying materials such as textiles and biological tissues.

Physicist Narayanan Menon points out that the work is crucial for understanding how wrinkle wavelength depends on properties of the sheet and the underlying liquid or solid. Findings appear this month in an early online issue of Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

Read full article at: UMass Amherst News Office

January, 2016
Thayumanavan Awarded $40,000 to Develop Nano-Polymer for Drug Delivery

The Massachusetts Technology Transfer Center (MTTC) in late December announced Innovation Commercialization Seed Fund grants of $40,000 each to eight faculty researchers across the UMass system who are developing promising technologies, including Sankaran “Thai” Thayumanavan, chemistry, for a project titled “Versatile nano-polymer platform for therapeutic delivery.”

Read full story at: UMass Amherst News Office

October, 2015
Crosby Elected Fellow of American Physical Society

Alfred Crosby, polymer science and engineering, was recently named a 2015 fellow of the American Physical Society, “for establishing a research program on nature-inspired materials that has gained a worldwide reputation while making a significant and broad impact on the fields of materials science, mechanics and biology.”

Crosby’s election, a recognition by his peers of “outstanding contributions to physics,” will be announced in an upcoming issue of APS News and on its website. He joined the UMass Amherst faculty in 2002 and established a research program on nature-inspired materials that has gained a worldwide reputation. He has more than 15 patents awarded or pending and has written over 100 scientific publications.

Read full article at: UMass Amherst News Office

September, 2015
Gecko Composite
The Springy Mechanics of Large and Small Gecko Toe Pad Adhesion: UMass Amherst researchers find spring-like mechanics help geckos walk on walls

Geckos employ dry adhesion, using a combination of microscopic hairs on their toe pads, as well as other aspects of internal anatomy, to climb vertical walls and run across ceilings, a skill that has long fascinated scientists. In particular, it’s a mystery how some species as much as 100 times heavier than others can use adhesion so effectively.

Read full article at: UMass Amherst News Office

September, 2015
UMass Amherst Wins Nearly $3 Million to Train Students in Use of Soft Materials for Life Sciences

Researchers at the University of Massachusetts Amherst have been awarded $2.975 million over five years through the National Science Foundation’s National Research Traineeship (NRT) program to train a group of graduate students from different disciplines in the use of polymers and other soft materials in the life sciences.

Polymer scientist Kenneth Carter, who co-directs the program with colleague Gregory Tew, says the NRT will engage 74 students over five years in polymer science and engineering, immunology, food science and several engineering fields. One goal is to explore new models for graduate education.

Read full article at: UMass Amherst News Office

August, 2015
Inspired by Venus Flytrap, Researchers Develop Folding ‘Snap’ Geometry: UMass Amherst team uses curved creases to quickly transform thin shells

Inspired by natural “snapping” systems like Venus flytrap leaves and hummingbird beaks, a team led by physicist Christian Santangelo at the University of Massachusetts Amherst has developed a way to use curved creases to give thin curved shells a fast, programmable snapping motion. The new technique avoids the need for complicated materials and fabrication methods when creating structures with fast dynamics.

The advance should help materials scientists and engineers who wish to design structures that can rapidly switch shape and properties, says Santangelo. He and colleagues, including polymer scientist Ryan Hayward, point out that until now there has not been a general geometric design rule for creating a snap between stable states of arbitrarily curved surfaces.

Read full article at: UMass Amherst News Office

August, 2015
Researchers Use Ultrathin Sheets to Discover New Class of Wrapped Shapes: UMass Amherst materials researchers describe a new regime of wrapped shapes

Materials scientists seeking to encapsulate droplets of one fluid within another often use molecules like soap or micro- or nano-particles to do it. One distinct way of wrapping a droplet is to use a thin sheet that calls on capillary action to naturally wrap a droplet in a blanket of film, but because it takes some force to bend a sheet around a drop, there were thought to be limits on what can be accomplished by this process.

Now, experimental and theoretical physicists and a polymer scientist at the University of Massachusetts Amherst have teamed up to use much thinner sheets than before to achieve this wrapping process. Thinner, highly-bendable sheets lift these constraints and allow for a new class of wrapped shapes, says experimental physicist Narayanan Menon.

Read full article at: UMass Amherst News Office