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Open access publications by faculty, staff, postdocs, and graduate students from the Center for Research in Soft matter & Polymers (CRiSP).

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    A polydisperse model for thixotropic elasto-viscoplastic suspensions of aggregating particles using population balances
    (AIChE Journal, 2023-09-18) Jariwala, Soham; Song, Rong; Hipp, Julie B.; Diemer, R. Bertrum; Wagner, Norman J.; Beris, Antony N.
    An improved population balance-based rheological constitutive framework for polydisperse aggregating suspensions is derived by incorporating detailed models for orthokinetic and perikinetic aggregation and shear breakage processes. The framework accounts for critical properties such as dynamic arrest, viscoelasticity, kinematic hardening, thixotropy, and yield stress to generate a full range of thixotropic elasto-viscoplastic (TEVP) response. Additionally, the model is thermodynamically consistent because the dynamics and timescales are completely determined by internal structural and kinetic variables. The model connects the rheological response to the structural descriptors such as the size distribution of agglomerates, mean sizes, fractal dimension, and agglomerate volume fraction. Predictions are compared against a wide range of shear rheology measurements data for model thixotropic suspensions of fumed silica and carbon black, including large amplitude oscillatory shear (LAOS), as well as ultra-small angle neutron scattering under steady shear (Rheo-uSANS).
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    Unlocking Circularity Through the Chemical Recycling and Upcycling of Lignin-Derivable Polymethacrylates
    (Macromolecules, 2023-11-22) Christoff-Tempesta, Ty; O’Dea, Robert M.; Epps, Thomas H. III
    The synthesis of polymers from lignin-derivable compounds can replace petrochemical building blocks with a renewable feedstock. However, the end-of-life management of bioderivable, nonbiodegradable polymers remains an outstanding challenge. Herein, the chemical recycling and upcycling of two higher-glass-transition temperature (>100 °C), lignin-derivable polymethacrylates, poly(syringyl methacrylate) (PSM) and poly(guaiacyl methacrylate) (PGM), is reported. Neat PSM and PGM were thermally depolymerized to quantitative conversions, producing their constituent monomers at high yields and purity. The deconstruction atmosphere influenced the depolymerization reaction order, and depolymerization was thermodynamically favored in air over N2. Further, monomer bulkiness and volatility impacted depolymerization activation energies. Notably, bulk depolymerization of PSM and PGM was performed without solvent or catalyst to high polymer conversions (89–90 wt %) and monomer yields (86–90 mol %) without byproduct formation. The resultant monomers were then upcycled to narrow-dispersity polymers and phase-separated block polymers. The findings herein offer a pathway to material circularity for higher-performance, lignin-derivable polymethacrylates.
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    A Life Cycle Greenhouse Gas Model of a Yellow Poplar Forest Residue Reductive Catalytic Fractionation Biorefinery
    (Environmental Engineering Science, 2022-09-13) Luo, Yuqing; O’Dea, Robert M.; Gupta, Yagya; Chang, Jeffrey; Sadula, Sunitha; Soh, Li Pei; Robbins, Allison M.; Levia, Delphis F.; Vlachos, Dionisios G.; Epps, Thomas H. III; Ierapetritou, Marianthi
    The incentive to reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions has motivated the development of lignocellulosic biomass conversion technologies, especially those associated with the carbohydrate fraction. However, improving the overall biomass valorization necessitates using lignin and understanding the impact of different tree parts (leaves, bark, twigs/branchlets) on the deconstruction of lignin, cellulose, and hemicellulose toward value-added products. In this work, we explore the production of chemicals from a yellow poplar-based integrated biorefinery. Yellow poplar (Liriodendron tulipifera L.) is an ideal candidate as a second-generation biomass feedstock, given that it is relatively widespread in the eastern United States. Herein, we evaluate and compare how the different proportions of cellulose, hemicellulose (xylan), and lignin among leaves, bark, and twigs/branchlets of yellow poplar, both individually and as a composite mix, influence the life-cycle GHG model of a yellow poplar biorefinery. For example, the processing GHG emissions were reduced by 1,110 kg carbon dioxide (CO2)-eq, 654 kg CO2-eq, and 849 kg CO2-eq per metric ton of twigs/branchlets, leaves, and bark, respectively. Finally, a sensitivity analysis illustrates the robustness of this biorefinery to uncertainties of the feedstock xylan/glucan ratio and carbon content.
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    Estrogenic activity of lignin-derivable alternatives to bisphenol A assessed via molecular docking simulations
    (RSC Advances, 2021-06-23) Amitrano, Alice; Mahajan, Jignesh S.; Korley, LaShanda T. J.; Epps, Thomas H. III
    Lignin-derivable bisphenols are potential alternatives to bisphenol A (BPA), a suspected endocrine disruptor; however, a greater understanding of structure–activity relationships (SARs) associated with such lignin-derivable building blocks is necessary to move replacement efforts forward. This study focuses on the prediction of bisphenol estrogenic activity (EA) to inform the design of potentially safer BPA alternatives. To achieve this goal, the binding affinities to estrogen receptor alpha (ERα) of lignin-derivable bisphenols were calculated via molecular docking simulations and correlated to median effective concentration (EC50) values using an empirical correlation curve created from known EC50 values and binding affinities of commercial (bis)phenols. Based on the correlation curve, lignin-derivable bisphenols with binding affinities weaker than ∼−6.0 kcal mol−1 were expected to exhibit no EA, and further analysis suggested that having two methoxy groups on an aromatic ring of the bio-derivable bisphenol was largely responsible for the reduction in binding to ERα. Such dimethoxy aromatics are readily sourced from the depolymerization of hardwood biomass. Additionally, bulkier substituents on the bridging carbon of lignin-bisphenols, like diethyl or dimethoxy, were shown to weaken binding to ERα. And, as the bio-derivable aromatics maintain major structural similarities to BPA, the resultant polymeric materials should possess comparable/equivalent thermal (e.g., glass transition temperatures, thermal decomposition temperatures) and mechanical (e.g., tensile strength, modulus) properties to those of polymers derived from BPA. Hence, the SARs established in this work can facilitate the development of sustainable polymers that maintain the performance of existing BPA-based materials while simultaneously reducing estrogenic potential.
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