Research Expertise and Interest

chemical engineering, synthesis and characterization of soft microstructured polymer materials, nucleation, neutron scattering, depolarized light scattering

Research Description

Nitash P. Balsara' is a professor of Chemical Engineering.  He received his Ph.D. in Chemical Engineering from Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute in 1988.

His research program is based on soft microstructured materials such as block copolymer melts, polymer blends, and microemulsions. Principles of solid state physics provide a recipe for creating soft materials. The modulus of an ordered phase is inversely proportional to the thermally driven mean square displacement of the ordered units and the lattice spacing. The soft materials he studies are thus characterized by large lattice spacing ranging from nanometers to microns, and large fluctuations wherein the magnitude of the mean square displacement approaches, and sometimes exceeds, the lattice spacing. These characteristics often lead to slow relaxation processes, which, in turn, enable fundamental investigations of non-equilibrium phenomena such as nucleation.

He specializes in the study of soft structures that self-assemble from the liquid state. The self-assembled nature of these structures has important consequences-they form spontaneously and do not require machining or lithography. The structure need not be permanently fixed; it can be altered by changing external variables such as temperature, pressure, and electric fields. Subtle changes in the external variables could lead to profound changes in the mechanical, optical and electrical properties of the material if they are accompanied by a microstructural transition. These changes could be accomplished repeatedly and reversibly if the structures are at equilibrium. These materials thus have the potential of performing complex functions, if we can understand the physical origins of their complex responses and control them to produce useful results.

His program is concerned with both synthesis and characterization of soft polymer materials. His lab measures soft polymers' response to changes in external variables by a variety of in-situ probes such as small angle neutron scattering and depolarized light scattering. Their objective is to develop a fundamental understanding of the relationship between the measured response and the molecular structure of the components that comprise our system.

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