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Rebecca HuyckMacromolecular Interfaces with Life Sciences IGERT
Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State UniversityBlacksburg, VA
Rebecca's Research at a Glance
Free radical polymerization is the most widely used mechanism for macromolecular synthesis in the industrial market, producing billions of tons of macromolecules and biopolymers worldwide each year. Despite this widespread usage, radical processes are not well understood. The same processes that mystify synthetic chemists also continue to mystify scientists studying oxidation and free radical processes in biological systems. Because the same basic principles of radical apply in all systems, polymerizations can be utilized as viable models for studying conventional radical reactions occurring in other systems. Therefore, my research will focus on the functions and mechanisms of free radicals within the context of polymerization in hopes of providing fundamental chemical knowledge of free radical processes.
The early stages of my research will focus on nitroxide-mediated stable free radical polymerization to study the fundamental processes of oxygen-centered radicals. This method permits the synthesis of well-defined polymers with predictable molecular weights, narrow polydispersities, and controlled macromolecular architecture. The mechanism of living polymerization involves a persistent, oxygen-centered radical, a nitroxide, which reversibly reacts with the growing radical to interchange between a capped dormant and uncapped reactive propagating chain. Under these conditions, free radical concentration is kept very low in a controlled environment throughout the reaction, providing an optimal environment for the study of the role of the free radical in the polymerization process.
Another portion of my research will incorporate photochemistry to study photochemically induced radical reactions. Light is a source of energy involved in the production of various radicals, including important radicals for biological processes. Photopolymerization reactions will be carried out using a Fusion UV lamp system and UV-Vis spectrometer to irradiate photoactive molecules and examine the oxidation and polymerization processes that occur.
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