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SD-RET Research Project Example 5:

Polysaccharide-based Biodegradable Polymers, Synthesis and Characterization

Research mentor: Dr. Tsvetanka Filipova, Department of Chemistry and Applied Biological Sciences.

Lab Overview: This lab focuses on the design and characterization of novel covalently cross-linked biodegradable polymer compositions based on sodium alginate and chitosan for biodegradable packing films. Biodegradable packing films from natural polymer as potential replacements for non-degradable petroleum packing films in short term applications has raised great interest in recent years due to the increased amount of plastic pollution. Both naturally derived biopolymers are of interest because they confer biodegradability and biocompatibility along with antimicrobial activity rigidity and nontoxicity. Sodium alginate and chitosan are natural linear polysaccharides have already found applications as adsorbents for controlled-release agents, artificial human tissue, and biodegradable food packaging.

SD-RET Research Project: Teachers will have the opportunity in an efficient and compact timeframe to prepare covalently cross-linked biodegradable polymer compositions. Molecular structures of polymer compositions will be confirmed by spectroscopic methods including infrared and proton nuclear magnetic resonance methods. Teachers will have the unique experience of both preparing novel biodegradable polymer compositions and of characterizing them using differential scanning calorimetry (DSC), thermogravimetric analysis (TGA), and wide angle X-ray diffraction (WAXD) instruments to probe the thermal, chemical and crystalline nature of the compositions. The proposed research has two main goals: 1) to investigate the preparation of biodegradable polymer compositions for films for food packaging applications, and 2) to characterize the resulting compositions in terms of molecular structure, solubility, mechanical and thermal properties.

This synthetic project will enable the SD-RET RAs to:

  • Design polymer compositions employing unique combinations of different natural  polysaccharides to achieve desired end-use requirements for a variety of applications;
  • Have experience in preparing of novel polysaccharide-based biodegradable polymer compositions;
  • Gain knowledge of analytical techniques commonly used in research and structure determination, as well as improve and develop their skills in scientific/technical writing, chemistry software familiarity and capabilities, and database searching skills;
  • Become acquainted with thermal analysis using DSC, TGA, and WAXD instruments.
  • Acquire fundamental chemical laboratory bench-scale techniques necessary for the preparation and characterization of polymer compositions.

Examples of alignment to the Next Generation Science/Common Core State Standards:

  • MS-LS2-3: Develop a model to describe the cycling of matter and flow of energy among living and nonliving parts of an ecosystem.
  • HS-LS2-4: Use mathematical representations to support claims for the cycling of matter and flow of energy among organisms in an ecosystem
  • FT-IF: Interpret functions that arise in applications in terms of the context. 

Application Process

Research Experience Teacher 

1. Submit:
CV, Vitae, Resume, Biography

2. Submit: 
1 page brief of how you will utilize this experience in your classrooms/teaching

3. Project preference:
list your top two choices

4. Submit:
Send All items to Robb Winter via email: