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Research Areas

Our major research interests are in polymer engineering of nanomaterials and nanotechnology with applications to Bio-Micro-Electro-Mechanical Systems (BioMEMS). MEMS emerged from IC manufacturing and is gaining applications in biomedical and optical communications fields. In the nano- or micron-size range, surface forces play important roles. We need to re-examine the transport equations as well as constitutive relations. In BioMEMS, we are developing affordable new techniques for micro/nanoarray and micro/nanofluidics biochips, and biosensors, multifunctional nanoparticles for drug and gene delivery, and cell-based drug delivery devices. Major applications are cancer detection and treatment, and cell reprogramming for regenerative medicine.

We are also interested in the fundamental aspects of processing of polymers, composites and polymeric nanocomposites via melt and reactive resins, and to explore new technologies. Interactions among materials, processing conditions, and product properties are the key concerns. We carry out research through a combination of advanced material characterization, lab-scale molding experiments, and theoretical analysis. In processing reactive resins and polymers, chemical reactions occur during processing, and the interaction of chemical and physical changes greatly affects the physical properties of formed products. A thorough understanding of reaction kinetics, rheological changes, and morphology evolution is essential for developing new materials and optimizing manufacturing processes. We are interested in both reactive paymers, such as thermostat resins, functional hydrogels, and photoresists; and thermoplastic polymers, such as engineering plastics, biodegradable polymers, and conductive polymers. In the latter case, supercritical fluids are used as processing aids to adjust polymer viscosity, surface tension, chain diffusivity, and to serve as foaming agents. 

For composite processing, our research extends from continuous fiber reinforcement to nanoparticle reinforced polymers. We are particularly interested in the development of cost-effective and environmentally friendly manufacturing technologies for transportation, infrastructure, energy and environmental applications.

Surface functionalization and dispersion of nanoparticles, fluid flow, and fiber wetting during filling, heat transfer and fiber-matrix bonding during curing, and the effect of macro- and micro-changes on the properties of molded composites are the major research issues. Processing examples include extrusion, injection molding, liquid composite molding, compression molding of sheet molding compounds (SMC), autoclave curing of prepregs, nanocomposite foaming, and nanopaper formation. 

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