The Polymers for Advanced Technology (PAT) 2019 internship focused on characterization of fully zwitterionic polymers. A zwitterion is a molecule that has a positive and negative ion linked together by covalent bonds. This results in a molecule that is electrically neutral, but has a very strong dipole moment. This strong dipole moment gives a zwitterionic molecule some unique properties that make them desirable in the realm of next generation battery technology and filtration application. While we have in the past research polymers that contain zwitterionic molecules, it was the job of the 2019 Internship to investigate polymers made up entirely of zwitterions. They looked at a family of 4 polymers that had been synthesized by the Asatekin group in the Department of Chemical and Biological Engineering. They investigated the polymers’ affinity for water absorption, thermal stability, molecular organization, as well as transition phenomena. The interns were able to show that all of these zwitterionic polymers absorbed water very rapidly, but the total amount of water they absorbed depended on the specific chemical structure. They were successfully able to characterize and measure the glass transition of several of these polymers for the very first time!
As part of their final project, the students produced a YouTube video documenting their work, and demonstrating what they learned and worked on here at Tufts. Please click here to see their work!