(Richards)(Richards)
(Richards)(Richards)
(Richards)(Richards)
(Wang)(Wang)
(Wang)(Wang)

Research
  /  
Areas of Research
Polymers and Soft Materials

Soft materials and polymers are ubiquitous in our lives and form the basis of many advances in medicine, sustainability, manufacturing, and clean water access. What makes these materials unique is that their structure and dynamics span multiple length- and time- scales, and these microscopic characteristics can be engineered to control material properties. At Northwestern, researchers seek to discover and exploit these relationships to design materials that improve the performance of technologies that address important societal challenges including lowering the cost of renewable energy generation and storage, generating renewable fuels, circularizing the plastics economy, and creating the next-generation of high-performance composites.

Research Areas

Areas of emphasis for faculty in our department include controlling electronic and ionic transport, enhancing mechanical durability and reprocessability, enabling the next generation of soft robots and flexible electronics, and discovering new material properties and structure-property relationships. These efforts are informed by a deep expertise in synthesis, fabrication, and characterization techniques including small angle scattering, optical microscopy, electrochemical measurements, rheology and mechanics, and simulation.

At Northwestern, the soft matter and polymer research community is vibrant and includes faculty from diverse personal and academic backgrounds. The proximity to Argonne National Laboratory, our strong inter-departmental relationships, and the International Institute for Nanotechnology (IIN) make our department and Northwestern a hub for soft matter and polymer research world-wide.

Faculty

Linda Broadbelt

Sarah Rebecca Roland Professor
Professor of Chemical and Biological Engineering
Associate Dean for Research

The Broadbelt Lab is developing polyurethanes that can be recycled via simple thermal treatment or from which monomer can be recovered by solvolytic means.

Wesley Burghardt

Professor of Chemical and Biological Engineering
Associate Dean of Undergraduate Engineering

Jeffrey Lopez

Assistant Professor of Chemical and Biological Engineering (beginning September 1, 2021)

Polymeric materials for energy storage applications, charge transport in polymer membranes, reactions at electrochemical interfaces, automated experimentation  

Richard Lueptow 

Professor of Mechanical Engineering (and by courtesy) Chemical and Biological Engineering
Senior Associate Dean for Research

Tobin Marks

Vladimir N. Ipatieff Professor of Catalytic Chemistry and Chemical and Biological Engineering and (by courtesy) Materials Science and Engineering

The Marks group has chemists and engineers working on waste polymer deconstruction and recycling, solar energy, and efficient hydrocarbon utilization. 

Chad Mirkin

George B. Rathmann Professor of Chemistry, Materials Science and Engineering, and (by courtesy) Chemical and Biological Engineering and Biomedical Engineering 

Mirkin explores the enormous parameter space of polyelemental nanoparticles, identifying ones for fuel cells, solar energy, and light emission.

Monica Olvera de la Cruz

Lawyer Taylor Professor of Materials Science and Engineering, Chemistry and (by courtesy) Chemical and Biological Engineering, Physics and Astronomy

Jeffrey Richards

Assistant Professor of Chemical and Biological Engineering 

The Richards Laboratory studies the properties of soft materials and engineers them for applications including renewable energy storage and new sensors.

George Schatz

Professor of Chemistry and (by courtesy) Chemical and Biological Engineering

Schatz uses molecular dynamics and electronic structure theory methods to describe self-assembly of biopolymers, and polymer mechanical/structural properties.

Igal Szleifer

Christina Enroth-Cugell Professor of Biomedical Engineering
Professor of Chemistry
Professor of Chemical and Biological Engineering
Professor of Medicine

John Torkelson

Walter P. Murphy Professor of Chemical and Biological Engineering and Materials Science and Engineering

The Torkelson group seeks to both understand molecular-scale behavior of polymers to engineer their properties by tuning molecular-scale responses via dynamic chemistry, nanoscale confinement, chain architecture, and novel solid-state processing, among other methods. 

Mitchell Wang

Assistant Professor of Chemical and Biological Engineering

The Wang Laboratory uses optics, synthesis, and high-throughput characterization to understand and design polymers for biomaterials and sustainability.