Zhuang Xu, a Department of Chemistry doctoral student, is one of five Illinois graduate students awarded a PPG Materials Research Laboratory (MRL) Graduate Research Assistantship to pursue cutting-edge research broadly related to the areas of interest to PPG.
MRL director Paul Braun, Ivan Racheff Professor of Materials Science & Engineering, and Professor of Chemistry, said the assistantships are a valuable opportunity for outstanding graduate students.
“We are grateful to be able to continue partnering with PPG on these graduate research fellowship programs, which provides top MRL graduate students with the ability to work on real-world problems with many opportunities for interaction with PPG,” he said.
A fourth-year doctoral student from China, Xu aspires to be a scientist in either academia or industry after he completes his PhD. The research he his doing as part of this assistantship is part of his PhD thesis.
He said his research focuses on investigating the assembly pathway of semiconducting polymers — research that could eventually have relevance to a wide range of device applications including transistors, thermoelectrics, solar cells, bioelectronics, photocatalysts, and spintronics.
"The solid-state properties of those polymers depend sensitively on their morphologies across length scales, encompassing molecular-scale intramolecular conformation and intermolecular ordering, mesoscale domain size, orientation and connectivity, and macroscale alignment and (para)crystallinity. This multiscale morphology is largely affected by solution-state structures and their assembly pathway from solution to thin films. By controlling the molecular design, solvent, coating temperature and techniques, we aim to tune the solution aggregate structures, their assembly, and the solid-state properties in a controlled fashion.”
His advisor, Prof. Ying Diao in the Department of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering, said the Diao Research Group is fortunate to have Zhuang.
“Zhuang is remarkable in his ability to think deeply about polymer assembly mechanisms, his ability to quickly master sophisticated structure characterization techniques, and his knack for problem solving needed for successful device engineering. Students excelling at all three aspects are rare to come by," Diao said.
Read the original announcement from MRL at Illinois.