Welcome to the Albert Research Group
Among the next generation of technologies, we expect medical diagnostic devices that are more accurate and portable; electronic devices that are faster, smaller, and capable of storing more information; and energy sources that are cleaner without sacrificing capacity or power. Polymers with tunable nano- and micro-structured morphologies can address these challenges. The Albert group is interested in developing these types of materials for research applications related to present-day challenges in energy, health, and environmental applications. Specifically, we take advantage of the phase separation processes responsible for self-assembly in block copolymers (~nm) and polymer blends (~μm) to produce thin film materials with desired morphologies. For example, we create materials that may become nanotemplates for electronic materials, tailorable microenvironments for cell culture, or nanoporous membranes for filtration. Through the natural relationships between material properties, surface interactions, and morphology design, our group’s projects combine principles from several fields of research, including nano- and micro- structured materials, surface chemistry, combinatorial methods, confined crystallization, nanoporous membranes for oil/water separations, biocompatible and functionalized surfaces and scaffolds for cell culture, and solar energy.
Highlighted Research Projects
Polymer Crystallization (Giovanni Kelly) : Crystalline polymers are those that, because of their simple backbone structure as well as favorable interchain or intrachain interactions, are able to form locally ordered regions both in the bulk and in thin films. This gives crystalline polymers certain favorable characteristics over amorphous materials, such as material toughness and varying levels of opacity that are useful for optical applications. Crystalline polymers include: poly(ethylene glycol) (PEG), poly(caprolactone) (PCL), polyethylene (PE), polypropylene (PP), and isotactic polystyrene (PS). Read more here.
Polyorganosiloxanes (Giovanni Kelly) : Polysiloxanes are a class of organosilicon molecules containing, at the very base, the silicon-oxygen-silicon linkage. Different from the typical organic polymers with a carbon-carbon or carbon-oxygen backbone, the polysiloxane backbone affords these materials with low thermal conductivity, high thermal and chemical stability, gas and solvent selectivity, and molecular flexibility. Read more here.
Block Copolymer Blend Morphology (Sloan Lipman) : Nano- and micro-structured materials are important in templating and membrane applications, which require thin films with well-defined morphologies on application-specific length scales (e.g., peptide arrays ~nm, cell arrays ~μm). In order to understand how to take advantage of self-assembly processes to access length scales spanning multiple orders of magnitude, this project will systematically investigate the fundamentals of block copolymer- homopolymer blend phase separation in composition regimes that lie between the nanostructured assemblies of homopolymer-swollen block copolymer domains (~10-100 nm) and the mesoscale morphologies of block copolymer compatibilized blends (~1-100 μm). Read more here.
The Effect of Polymer Architecture on Self-Assembly of Block Copolymer (Baraka Lwoya) : The goal of our research is to systematically investigate the effects of different polymer architectures on the self-assembly of block copolymers in thin films (~10-100 nm). Numerous research efforts have been conducted on individual characteristics such as block copolymer architecture, polymer blends, and interfacial tension. Few publications have explored the relationship between these three effects on block copolymer self-assembly. Instead of focusing on diblock structures, in which a plethora of research has been conducted, our aim is to contribute to the field of multi-block and non-linear polymer architectures. Read more here.