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UD chemical engineer receives NSF career award

Thomas H. Epps III, assistant professor of chemical engineering at the University of Delaware, is the recipient of a prestigious Faculty Early Career Development Award from the National Science Foundation (NSF).

The award, which is highly competitive, is bestowed on those scientists deemed most likely to become the academic leaders of the 21st century. Fewer than 20 percent of the proposals submitted to the annual competition are funded, according to NSF.

The five-year, $460,000 grant will support Epps' research and education program on block copolymers. These self-assembling, nanoscale materials are formed by combining two or more distinct polymer chains. They are advancing the development of the next-generation of high-performance materials, from more efficient fuel cells to chemical-resistant, yet breathable clothing.

"Thomas Epps is a highly skilled scientist with great energy, enthusiasm and dedication to research and teaching, which are hallmarks of the career award," Eric Kaler, the Elizabeth Inez Kelley Professor of Chemical Engineering and dean of UD's College of Engineering, said. "We congratulate him on this well-deserved honor."

The materials that Epps is developing contain structures that are a thousand times smaller than the diameter of a human hair and represent the "best of both worlds" because they combine the properties of two or more different polymers.

"An example is to take poly(isoprene), which is found in a rubber band, and chemically bind it to poly(styrene), which is found in a Styrofoam cup," Epps explained. "By combining these two polymers, you would get the properties of both--resulting in an elastic, rubbery material with structural and thermal stability, such as a passenger car tire."

Epps says the beauty of block copolymers is that they self-assemble, which makes them a cheaper alternative to the laser-generated templates currently used in semiconductor fabrication
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Contact: Tracey Bryant
tbryant@udel.edu
302-831-8185
University of Delaware
20-Apr-2007


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