NSF Creates Polymer Chemistry Optimization Center at Duke for Future Materials

NSF Creates Polymer Chemistry Optimization Center at Duke for Future Materials

The National Science Foundation has awarded a five-year, $20 million grant to Duke University researchers to explore and optimize the chemical structure and physical properties of individual molecules in a polymer network.

“The long-term potential of this research includes cost- and time-efficient optimization of the polymers used in products like biomedical implants, building materials and even automobile tires,” said principal investigator Stephen Craig, the William T. Miller distinguished professor of chemistry at Duke. “We hope to discover new ways to make tougher, longer-lived materials with improved end-of-life properties that reduce waste while being perfectly tailored to their intended uses.”

The NSF Center for the Chemistry of Molecularly Optimized Networks (MONET) will bring together experts in polymer chemistry, synthetic methods, photochemistry, multi-scale modeling and bioconjugation. While led by Duke, the center will include researchers from Columbia University, Johns Hopkins, MIT, Northwestern, University of California - San Diego, University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign, University of Michigan, and University of Washington.

The senior investigator team includes Duke’s Michael Rubinstein, the Aleksandar S. Vesic distinguished professor of mechanical engineering and materials science, chemistry, physics, and biomedical engineering, who specializes in polymer modeling.

“The scientific path being charted by the MONET team will further national priorities in Advanced Manufacturing, Sustainability and Artificial Intelligence,” said NSF Division Director David Berkowitz.

In addition to its scientific activities, MONET will work to broaden participation and improve student training in the sciences and advance the public appreciation and commercial translation of its findings.