Research in our group aims to improve fundamental theoretical understanding of the properties of polymer materials and other complex fluids. We use a combination of analytic statistical mechanics, numerical solution of approximate theories, and molecular simulation. Much of our recent work has focused on: (i) self-assembled equilibrium structures of systems that contain block copolymers, (ii) effects of composition fluctuations in polymer blends and block copolymer melts, and (iii) the dynamics and rheology of liquids containing polymers with stiff backbones.
Our work on self-assembly in systems that contain block copolymers has relied heavily on the use of numerical self-consistent field theory (SCFT) to predict equilibrium structures, and has often been motived by and/or carried out in collaboration with experimental colleagues. Recent work along these lines has included analysis of complex morphologies in both triblock and diblock copolymer melts, and analysis of the use of block copolymers as surfactants in immiscible polymer blends.
We are now working actively on theoretical methods that attempt to systematically improve upon SCFT by taking into account the effects of the collective composition fluctuations that SCFT ignores.
Studies of solutions and networks of rigid backbone polymers are motivated in part by the important structural roles played by semiflexible protein filaments such as F-actin in cellular biology. Our work aims to provide a sound understanding the rheology of solutions and gels of such polymers on the basis of a wormlike chain model of polymer conformations, in both dilute and highly entangled concentration regimes. Recent work in this area includes the use of Brownian dynamics simulations to characterize chain motion in highly entangled solutions.