Brandon Clarke, UMass Fellow 2020-2021
Graduate Program: Polymer Science and Engineering
Lab: Greg Tew
Research Interest: The design of bottlebrush network tissue mimics with tunable properties
Biological tissues typically have modulus values on the range of 100-107 Pa, a level of softness which is synthetically challenging to achieve. Hydrogels—networks swollen with water—exhibit modulus values on the order of 103 Pa, but need to be swollen with solvent to exhibit this effect, making them difficult to work with. Bottlebrush polymers are uniquely positioned to provide the platform necessary to create networks with highly tunable physical properties (Tg, modulus, etc) without the need for swelling. These networks can be synthesized easily using ring-opening metathesis polymerization (ROMP) with difunctional macromonomer added to the polymerization. Current efforts are geared towards generating a library of PDMS/PEG bottlebrush networks of various polymer compositions.