Science and Engineering

University of Akron

David S. Simmons, Alamgir Karim, Kevin A. Cavicchi
Akron, OH
$1,000,000
June 2013

Glasses are ubiquitous – from plants that employ sugar glasses to protect against desiccation, to obsidian arrowheads found in archaeological sites, to polymeric coatings on electronics – yet we lack a basic understanding of the nature of glasses and the glass transition. This project aims to transform our fundamental understanding of the glass transition by identifying and studying glass forming polymers at the extreme limits of glass formation, in terms of the breadth – narrow or broad – of their transition. In order to accomplish this goal, we will implement a hybrid computational/experimental genetic algorithm integrating rapid, semi quantitative molecular simulation techniques with high-throughput polymerization and dielectric spectroscopy to overcome limitations of stand-alone computational and experimental approaches that have restricted rapid discovery of glass-forming systems. Characterization of the physics of these ‘extreme’ materials will provide the basis for establishing a fundamental understanding of the nature of the glass transition. En route to obtaining these physical insights this hybrid approach is expected to yield polymers with exceptional properties, enabling solutions to major materials challenges such as water purification and energy storage, and ultimately resulting in a new paradigm for the rapid discovery of next-generation glassy materials.

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