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Award ID contains: 2029327

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  1. Abstract

    It is challenging to find a conventional nanofabrication technique that can consistently produce soft polymeric matter of high surface area and nanoscale morphology in a way that is scalable, versatile, and easily tunable. Here, the capabilities of a universal method for fabricating diverse nano‐ and micro‐scale morphologies based on polymer precipitation templated by the fluid streamlines in multiphasic flow are explored. It is shown that while the procedure is operationally simple, various combinations of its intertwined mechanisms can controllably and reproducibly lead to the formation of an extraordinary wide range of colloidal morphologies. By systematically investigating the process conditions, 12 distinct classes of polymer micro‐ and nano‐structures including particles, rods, ribbons, nanosheets, and soft dendritic colloids (dendricolloids) are identified. The outcomes are interpreted by delineating the physical processes into three stages: hydrodynamic shear, capillary and mechanical breakup, and polymer precipitation rate. The insights into the underlying fundamental mechanisms provide guidance toward developing a versatile and scalable nanofabrication platform. It is verified that the liquid shear‐based technique is versatile and works well with many chemically diverse polymers and biopolymers, showing potential as a universal tool for simple and scalable nanofabrication of many morphologically distinct soft matter classes.

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  2. Abstract

    Identifying and removing microplastics (MPs) from the environment is a global challenge. This study explores how the colloidal fraction of MPs assemble into distinct 2D patterns at aqueous interfaces of liquid crystal (LC) films with the goal of developing surface‐sensitive methods for identifying MPs. Polyethylene (PE) and polystyrene (PS) microparticles are measured to exhibit distinct aggregation patterns, with addition of anionic surfactant amplifying differences in PS/PE aggregation patterns: PS changes from a linear chain‐like morphology to a singly dispersed state with increasing surfactant concentration whereas PE forms dense clusters at all surfactant concentrations. Statistical analysis of assembly patterns using deep learning image recognition models yields accurate classification, with feature importance analysis confirming that dense, multibranched assemblies are unique features of PE relative to PS. Microscopic characterization of LC ordering at the microparticle surfaces leads to predict LC‐mediated interactions (due to elastic strain) with a dipolar symmetry, a prediction consistent with the interfacial organization of PS but not PE. Further analysis leads to conclude that PE microparticles, due to their polycrystalline nature, possess rough surfaces that lead to weak LC elastic interactions and enhanced capillary forces. Overall, the results highlight the potential utility of LC interfaces for rapid identification of colloidal MPs based on their surface properties.

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  3. Abstract

    Environmental and health risks posed by microplastics (MPs) have spurred numerous studies to better understand MPs' properties and behavior. Yet, we still lack a comprehensive understanding due to MP's heterogeneity in properties and complexity of plastic property evolution during aging processes. There is an urgent need to thoroughly understand the properties and behavior of MPs as there is increasing evidence of MPs' adverse health and environmental effects. In this perspective, we propose an integrated chemical engineering approach to improve our understanding of MPs. The approach merges artificial intelligence, theoretical methods, and experimental techniques to integrate existing data into models of MPs, investigate unknown features of MPs, and identify future areas of research. The breadth of chemical engineering, which spans biological, computational, and materials sciences, makes it well‐suited to comprehensively characterize MPs. Ultimately, this perspective charts a path for cross‐disciplinary collaborative research in chemical engineering to address the issue of MP pollution.

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  4. Abstract

    A highly controllable and scalable process for fabrication of large amounts of concentrated lignin nanoparticles (LNPs) is reported. These lignin core nanoparticles are formed through flash nanoprecipitation, however, scaling up of the fabrication process requires fundamental understanding of their operational formation mechanism and surface properties. It is shown how a semicontinuous synthesis system with a recirculation loop makes it possible to produce flash precipitated lignin nanoparticles in large amounts for practical applications. The roles of the process parameters, including flow rates and lignin concentration, are investigated and analyzed. The results indicate that the LNPs are formed by a process of continuous burst nucleation at the point of mixing without diffusive growth, which yields nanoparticles of highly uniform size following a modified LaMer nucleation and growth mechanism. This mechanism makes possible facile process control and scale‐up. Effective control of the resulting nanoparticle size is achieved through the initial concentration of lignin in the injected solution. The impressive capability to produce suspensions of any predesigned multimodal distribution is demonstrated. The resulting nanofabrication technique can produce large volumes of concentrated LNP suspensions of high stability and tightly controlled size distributions for biological or agricultural applications.

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  5. Free, publicly-accessible full text available April 25, 2024