When donning a waterproof rain jacket in a deluge, many of us do not dwell on what goes into making the garment effective against the elements, as long as we stay dry. The water repellent feature of the jacket owes its ability to keep us dry to its unique material’s surface properties. Likewise, the surface properties of other common household goods, such as tape’s adhesiveness and the non-stick abilities of some cookware, are essential to daily living for many of us.
To achieve a particular characteristic such as water repellency, often a material’s surface needs to be chemically modified to tailor its properties. To examine further how to customize desirable properties of materials, Professor Christopher Li has recently been awarded a three-year National Science Foundation (NSF) grant to engage in collaborative research to develop a viable method for modifying a substrate surface using polymers of tailor-designed shapes to achieve precise control of surface structures and properties. “Collaborative Research: Polymer Single Crystal-Assisted ‘Grafting From’: A Versatile Approach towards Multicomponent Polymer Brushes with Well-Defined Architectures and Grafting” is a collaboration with Professor Bin Zhao of the University of Tennessee Knoxville. This fundamental chemistry research is expected to advance the field of polymer science and present new opportunities in materials and technology development with the potential to lead to the improvement of other everday items.