Li receives $400,000 5-year CAREER Award

Published on Thursday March 27, 2003

Dr. Christopher Li, assistant professor in the Department of Materials Science and Engineering, was awarded a competitive NSF CAREER grant for his proposal, "Complex hierarchical self-assembly templated by block copolymers: phase structures, nano fabrication and nano-electrooptic properties."  Total funding for Li’s five-year award is $400,000.  Li joined Drexel’s Department of Materials Science and Engineering a year ago after receiving his Ph.D. in polymer science from the University of Akron.

The aim of Li’s proposal is to achieve complex hierarchical self-assembled structures via combining two-dimensional (2-D) liquid crystalline (LC) ordering and block copolymer microphase separation process.  Proposed research activities will include designing, synthesizing and systematically investigating a series of bent-core liquid crystalline (BCLC) diblock copolymers; fabricating well-defined nano building blocks such as nano porous plates, rods and spheres and exploring the nanoelectrooptic properties of these novel hierarchical structures.

The proposed hierarchical structures could be used as templates for nano fabrication applications. Well-correlated structures at different length scales might also provide a solution for the transfer of the novel properties at the nanoscale into a higher length scale. Furthermore, due to their specific structure complexity these hierarchical structures can serve as a scaffold for further nanoscience and nanotechnology research, particularly for nano device manufacturing.  The structural complexity and hierarchies might also hold the key to designing synthetic materials that can mimic elegant living systems.

As is required of all CAREER proposals, Li’s project has a strong educational component.  He will address the need for disseminating information on developments in polymer nanoscience and nanotechnology to today’s nanotech students by developing a new course at Drexel entitled, “Polymers and nanotechnology.”  He will also promote relationships between co-op and graduate students working in his laboratory with local industry, including Atofina and Dupont.  In addition, Li will be working with high school students participating in this summer’s “Summer Engineering Experience@Drexel”, or SEED, program.

Dr. Li is also the PI on the NSF proposal "NUE: The Drexel Nano Engineering Track," which received funding for one-year at the level of $99,998 to strengthen Drexel's nanoengineering undergraduate education.  In addition, Li is a recent recipient of the 3M Young Faculty Award.  Dr. Li’s other current research interests include multi-functional polymeric photonic crystals; fabrication and characterization; polymeric/inorganic hybrid nanocomposites for bone tissue engineering and tunable ordered polymer structures through self-organized folding.

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