School of Engineering


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  • Curtis Frank

    Curtis Frank

    W. M. Keck, Sr. Professor in Engineering and Professor, by court, of Materials Science and Engineering

    BioThe properties of ultrathin polymer films are often different from their bulk counterparts. We use spin casting, Langmuir-Blodgett deposition, and surface grafting to fabricate ultrathin films in the range of 100 to 1000 Angstroms thick. Macromolecular amphiphiles are examined at the air-water interface by surface pressure, Brewster angle microscopy, and interfacial shear measurements and on solid substrates by atomic force microscopy, FTIR, and ellipsometry. A vapor-deposition-polymerization process has been developed for covalent grafting of poly(amino acids) from solid substrates. FTIR measurements permit study of secondary structures (right and left-handed alpha helices, parallel and anti-parallel beta sheets) as a function of temperature and environment.

    A broadly interdisciplinary collaboration has been established with the Department of Ophthalmology in the Stanford School of Medicine. We have designed and synthesized a fully interpenetrating network of two different hydrogel materials that have properties consistent with application as a substitute for the human cornea: high water swellability up to 85%,tensile strength comparable to the cornea, high glucose permeability comparable to the cornea, and sufficient tear strength to permit suturing. We have developed a technique for surface modification with adhesion peptides that allows binding of collagen and subsequent growth of epithelial cells. Broad questions on the relationships among molecular structure, processing protocol, and biomedical device application are being pursued.

  • Gerald Fuller

    Gerald Fuller

    Fletcher Jones II Professor in the School of Engineering

    BioThe processing of complex liquids (polymers, suspensions, emulsions, biological fluids) alters their microstructure through orientation and deformation of their constitutive elements. In the case of polymeric liquids, it is of interest to obtain in situ measurements of segmental orientation and optical methods have proven to be an excellent means of acquiring this information. Research in our laboratory has resulted in a number of techniques in optical rheometry such as high-speed polarimetry (birefringence and dichroism) and various microscopy methods (fluorescence, phase contrast, and atomic force microscopy).

    The microstructure of polymeric and other complex materials also cause them to have interesting physical properties and respond to different flow conditions in unusual manners. In our laboratory, we are equipped with instruments that are able to characterize these materials such as shear rheometer, capillary break up extensional rheometer, and 2D extensional rheometer. Then, the response of these materials to different flow conditions can be visualized and analyzed in detail using high speed imaging devices at up to 2,000 frames per second.

    There are numerous processes encountered in nature and industry where the deformation of fluid-fluid interfaces is of central importance. Examples from nature include deformation of the red blood cell in small capillaries, cell division and structure and composition of the tear film. Industrial applications include the processing of emulsions and foams, and the atomization of droplets in ink-jet printing. In our laboratory, fundamental research is in progress to understand the orientation and deformation of monolayers at the molecular level. These experiments employ state of the art optical methods such as polarization modulated dichroism, fluorescence microscopy, and Brewster angle microscopy to obtain in situ measurements of polymer films and small molecule amphiphile monolayers subject to flow. Langmuir troughs are used as the experimental platform so that the thermodynamic state of the monolayers can be systematically controlled. For the first time, well characterized, homogeneous surface flows have been developed, and real time measurements of molecular and microdomain orientation have been obtained. These microstructural experiments are complemented by measurements of the macroscopic, mechanical properties of the films.