Structure and water transport through block copolymers with a hydrophilic block

Block copolymers are polymers comprised of “blocks” of different
monomeric units connected together. Block copolymers with precisely tailored
molecular structure, viz. molecular weight and connectivity of the blocks represent
functional materials with remarkable properties. These materials find use in challenging
applications, such as membranes for separations. This project is focused on investigations
of block copolymers with glassy styrenic blocks connected to hydrophilic sulphonated
blocks. Such block copolymers form films with microphase separated structure,
characterized by length scales of the order of tens of nanometers. The
formation of these structures is often out of equilibrium, resulting in slow
structural changes in the membrane. This impacts properties such as the
membrane conductivity as well as separation ability. This project will
investigate the structure of these block copolymers at different levels of
hydration and seek to understand the forces that drive structure formation. This
structure will be correlated with properties, specifically, water transport.
This project will involve extensive experimentation to characterize structure,
including small angle Xray scattering and, most likely, electron microscopy. Water
transport will be characterized and will be modelled and correlated with the experimentally
obtained structural information. Strong collaborations with industry are
envisaged as part of this work.

Proposing Faculty
Research Area
  • Heat and Mass Transfer
  • Nano-composites
  • Polymer Physics