Polymer faculty continue to earn significant federal research funds


In a five-month period, beginning in April, faculty in the College of Polymer Science and Polymer Engineering were awarded federal research grants totaling nearly $4 million. The substantial awards – for topics ranging from designing new materials inspired by a bird’s nest to 3D printing and nanocomposites – demonstrate the college’s ongoing strength in polymer innovations and applications of research and highlight its worldwide reputation as a site for groundbreaking study. 

“I am extremely excited by the new research areas that my colleagues are working on,” said Dr. Ali Dhinojwala, interim dean of the college, who anticipates new ideas emerging from the research, including the development of new technologies, start-ups and job creation in Northeast Ohio. “The University of Akron is a premier polymer program, and I am proud of our hard-working, creative faculty and their pursuit of excellence here.” 

Congratulations to the following research award recipients:

Dr. Ali Dhinojwala


A United States Air Force Office of Scientific Research grant, under the Defense Department’s Multidisciplinary Research Initiative (MURI) program. The research goals are to understand how melanin is synthesized by natural organisms, and using synthetic melanin to develop new kinds of advanced materials. Read more: MURI: Unraveling the Biology, Chemistry and Nanoscience.

Dr. Abraham Joy


Funding in partnership with GE Global Research and the George Washington University for Human Identification Based on Proteomic Markers in Touch from the IARPA-Proteos program, which is focused on development of novel approaches to human identification through the analysis of proteins.

Polymer Lab


Dr. Younjin Min


A U.S. Department of Energy study on the Influence of Nanoconfinement and Elevated Temperatures on Geocolloid-Facilitated Transport of Energy-related Contaminants. The project seeks to obtain a fundamental understanding of how nanoconfinement and elevated temperatures influence the transport of geocolloids coated with energy-related contaminants in geological systems. The knowledge gained will advance knowledge of geophysics, fluid dynamics and environmental science, ultimately enabling scientists and researchers to better assess transport and fate behaviors underground.

Dr. Sadhan Jana


A National Science Foundation grant for Continuous Manufacturing of Aerogel-Foam Sheets and Films. This grant supports research that contributes new knowledge on continuous manufacturing of meters long and tens of centimeters wide highly porous, polymer aerogel-foam sheets and films. The aerogel-foam sheets will have coexisting open pores of several length scales that introduce new functions not achievable from conventional foam and aerogel materials. The knowledge developed will benefit numerous disciplines, such as textiles, electrochemistry, membrane separation, immunology and manufacturing.

Dr. Andrey Dobrynin


In partnership with the University of Connecticut, a National Science Foundation Designing Materials to Revolutionize and Engineer our Future (DMREF) collaborative research grant to study Polymeric Composites and Foams Based on Two Dimensional Surfactants.

Dr. Bryan Vogt


A National Science Foundation project to study Structured Filaments for High Performance 3D Printed Plastic Objects. This award seeks to develop fundamental knowledge on how to overcome mechanical weakness in 3D printed plastics using fused filament fabrication. The concept proposed uses composite filaments where the components are structured within the filament to provide rigidity to maintain the shape, while also promoting polymer interdiffusion at the interfaces between printed layers to generate objects with high impact resistance.

Dr. Hunter King


A National Science Foundation collaborative research project on Emergent Mechanics of Randomly Packed Elastic Filaments for coordinated physical and computational experiments to advance the science of soft granular materials by relating bulk mechanical properties of idealized “nest systems.” These systems are based on bird nests that reliably retain their shape against various mechanical perturbations. Results will generate new knowledge in granular physics and will appeal to emerging aleatory architecture and engineering paradigms.

Dr. Younjin Min


A National Science Foundation project to study Mechanobiology of Asymmetric Myelin Membranes at Multiple Length Scales. This project seeks to study the biomechanical properties of myelin, which is a specialized membrane that insulates axons to enable the fast conduction of action potentials and the proper functioning of the nervous system. The research will lead to a better understanding of the role of lipid-protein interactions in regard to myelin function and healthiness, which can, in turn, be used for the development of treatment strategies for multiple sclerosis and other neurological disorders.

Dr. Sadhan Jana


An American Chemical Society Petroleum Research Fund award to study Emulsion-templated organo-gel constructs for oil-water separation. The proposed research seeks to investigate hierarchical, porous polymer constructs for water separation from emulsions in hydrocarbon oils. The polymer constructs envisioned in this work will have voids of a few tens of micrometer in diameter, henceforth defined as macrovoids, created by emulsified water droplets in a polymer organogel. These polymer constructs will expedite demulsification of water-in-oil emulsions as an energy-efficient alternative to traditional demulsification technologies based on chemical agents and heating. It is anticipated that the high surface area polymer strands will cause rapid spreading and preferential adsorption of the surfactants, thus releasing water droplets and expediting emulsion breakup.

Dr. Li Jia


A National Science Foundation I-Corps Teams grant to advance commercialization of Non-Silane Coupling Agents to reinforce tires. Unlike other coupling agents, Jia’s novel chemistry does not generate environmentally harmful volatile organic compounds and may improve tire performance or mixing properties. Read more: Faculty and student teams complete intense I-Corps Teams program.

Dr. Li Jia


A National Science Foundation Center for Tire Research (CenTiRe) grant to research of using polymers to improve tire rubber durability. Read more: Supramolecular Reinforcement of Rubber.

Media contact: Alex Knisely, 330-972-6477 or aknisely@uakron.edu.