425083 Application of the Technique of Chemical Vapor Deposition of Polymers to a Broad Spectrum of Research Projects from Nuclear Fusion to Water Purification

Sunday, November 8, 2015
Exhibit Hall 1 (Salt Palace Convention Center)
Aravind Suresh, Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering, University of Connecticut, Storrs, CT

Application of the Technique of Chemical Vapor Deposition of Polymers to a Broad Spectrum of Research Projects – from Nuclear Fusion to Water Purification

Aravind Suresh

Assistant Professor-in-Residence, Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering Department,

University of Connecticut, Storrs, CT 06269

E-mail: aravindsuresh.nitt@gmail.com

Research: My research background lies at the intersection of chemical engineering and materials science. My doctoral dissertation was on the development of bi-functional high-temperature oxides with catalytic activity for hydrogen generation and mixed protonic-electronic conductivity for hydrogen purification[1, 2]. After my Ph.D., I have been working on developing inter-disciplinary research projects involving initiated and photo-initiated Chemical Vapor Deposition (iCVD and piCVD) of polymers.

My work led to the discovery of auto-polymerization of hexyl acrylate under ultraviolet radiation of wavelength 254 nm[3]. The remarkable feature of the process was that deposition rate increased linearly with the thickness of the polymer film. The phenomenon suggests that the bulk, and not just surface, of the polymer film acts in continuously accelerating the deposition process. This would mean that either the monomer vapor diffuses into the film or free radicals generated by UV radiation migrate through the thickness towards the gas-solid interface. I am now working on elucidating the mechanism of the process along with obtaining the underlying kinetic parameters.

Prof. Daniel Burkey and I are collaborating with a group at the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory (LLNL); for their research on nuclear fusion at the National Ignition Facility, they require an optically clear polymer with chemical resistance to oxygen and humidity upon aging. We are exploring iCVD as a potentially better alternative to plasma-enhanced CVD (peCVD) that they currently employ at LLNL. Results indicate that the mild operating conditions and low energetics of iCVD in comparison to peCVD result in a lower concentration of defects and free radicals in the polymer film, which enhances its stability against oxidation.

We are also collaborating with a research group at the University of Connecticut (UConn) in exploring the utility of iCVD for functionalizing polyacrylonitrile (PAN) nanofiber mats prepared by electrospinning. We have been able to put down a conformal polymer film on the nanofibers that completely alters the hydrophilic nature of the mats - the contact angle changes from ~50o to ~140o. The modified mats are currently being tested as the active components in membrane distillation.

Teaching: I have been teaching the senior and junior laboratory courses in the chemical engineering department at UConn for four years now. Chemical engineering laboratory education is my passion and I intend to follow it as I move ahead in my career. Having a tenure-track faculty member who is dedicated to and specializes in developing and maintaining a modern and robust laboratory will be an asset to any chemical engineering department and will add value to its mission of promoting both undergraduate education and undergraduate research.

References:

[1] Suresh, Basu, Carter, Sammes, Wilhite, Journal of Materials Science (2010) 45: 3215-3227

[2] Zhang, Suresh, Carter, Wilhite, Solid State Ionics (2014) 266: 58-67

[3] Suresh, Anastasio, Burkey, Chemical Vapor Deposition (2014) 20: 5-7


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