Our group is interested in the intersection between fields of polymer chemistry and materials science and engineering. In particular, we are investigating composite materials in which biopolymers are modified through synthetic polymer chemistry methodologies to explore the resulting effects on materials properties and mechanics. We are also exploring the unique optical and material properties that can be accessed via constructing synthetic photonic crystals as outlined in the next section.
The majority of color we typically encounter relies on the selective absorption of light. Another form of color found in nature, termed “structural color,” relies on the selective reflection of light based on the nanostructure of the material system. Due to the wavelength and periodic nature of light waves, the nanostructure of a material can be intimately connected to its optical properties. Therefore, periodic nanostructures on the order of the wavelength of visible light can constructively interfere and reflect light. By modulating the domain spacing of the nanostructure and the refractive index of the material, the reflected wavelength can be tuned. This periodic nanostructure is commonly known as a photonic crystal.
Our group studies the synthesis of these periodic dielectric structures via the self-assembly of block copolymers. We are especially interested in developing new polymeric materials and architectures capable of modulating the nanostructure of photonic crystal to modulate the color of the material. For further reading, check out the following links: