Materials & Chemicals

Most Recent Inventions

Stimuli-Responsive Smart Block Copolymers Improve Dispersion of Titanium Dioxide in Architectural Coatings

An associate professor of materials science and engineering at the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire has synthesized a series of stimuli-responsive block copolymer dispersants optimized for use in architectural coating applications. These novel polymer dispersants are currently being developed as additives to existing coatings for improved dispersion of TiO2. Dispersant properties are tunable through modification of the polymer composition as a function of pH and temperature. Initial data shows that the addition of these polymers can decrease settling rate, control viscosity, and control interfacial activity, all of which are important for greater dispersant effectiveness and stability over time. These polymers have demonstrated the ability to interface with pigment particles, such as TiO2, resulting in improved dispersion of the pigment. Initial testing shows reduced TiO2 concentration while maintaining zero shear viscosity and shear thinning properties, which prevents drips in the coatings, and is comparable to commercially available formations. These properties are tunable and may be altered to tailor the product for a desired use or environment, or to readjust the properties of an aged existing product. New methods of synthesis to allow for the scaled-up production of these polymer additives are complete and new purification methods are in progress. Further development will also focus on maintaining additional properties like coverage and opacity, and testing of additional polymer compositions and particle surface coatings.

Novel Catalysts for Improved Remediation of Sulfur-Containing Pollutants

A professor of chemistry at the University of Wisconsin-La Crosse has developed a versatile suite of iron-based catalysts with the potential to promote rapid, efficient oxidation of deleterious sulfur-containing compounds present in crude oil, natural gas, and/or aqueous waste streams. With these novel catalysts, there is no need for corrosive base, elevated temperatures, expensive or dangerous oxidants, or high pressures.

Porous Silicon Nanomembranes for the Rapid Separation of Macromolecules by Size and Shape

Researchers at the University of Wisconsin-Platteville have developed a unique nanomembrane for the separation of biomolecules based on their three-dimensional geometries. These “macromolecular sieves” are produced from laser-etched silicon nanomembranes. The pores in these membranes have openings in the sub-micron range but are designed to significantly reduce the flow impedance of the filtered solution. This design feature allows for faster filtration time when compared with traditional membranes. Nanomembranes with square and rectangular geometries have been produced. Desirable characteristics of the square opening membrane include a high open area of 45% and low standard deviation in opening size (less than 5%). Additionally, the fabricated membranes have been tested with vacuum pumps and show no signs of damage after repeated filtrations with 15 psi of applied pressure differential. Currently, reducing opening size below 100 nm and introducing openings of varying geometries is under development. Further efforts are also underway to decrease the manufacture time and increase the overall scalability of the membrane patterning process.

Novel Transparent Dilatant Materials Comprised of Single Chemical Component

Research from the University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point has resulted in the synthesis of a series of materials exhibiting a range of dilatant properties. The materials show good transparency and are chemically uniform (e.g. consisting of a single chemical component). The degree of dilatancy is easily controlled by adjusting the compositions of the materials. Due to the range of dilatant properties, good transparency, and single chemical component nature of the dilatant samples, these materials show significant promise for novel uses in protective equipment and other areas related to impact protection, especially where transparency is desirable.

Skin Whitening Agent(s)

Following on from earlier research focused on development of stilbenoid-based derivatives for antimicrobial activity (isolated originally from the sweet fern Comptonia peregrina), researchers at UW-River Falls have generated a preclinical data package using zebrafish embryos which demonstrates lead analogues to possess potent skin-lightening activity. The zebrafish embryo model makes an excellent model for pigmentation studies due to the rapid and well-conserved melanocyte development and melanin synthesis. Lead compound, A11, has been shown to have more potent activity compared to a number of current skin-lightening compounds including arbutin which required a significantly higher concentration (300mM) to achieve comparable effects as A11 at 10M (70% versus 90% inhibition, respectively). Most importantly, A11 caused no detectable toxicity, whereas niaciamide and tretinoin caused strong toxicity to developing embryos while gallic acid killed the embryos at 50mM and arbutin caused cardiac degeneration. When tested for long-term efficacy, A11-incubated embryos demonstrated a 50% recovery of pigment 48 hours after wash, suggesting longer-acting skin-lightening effect as compared to other products which fully recovered (100%) their pigment within 24 hours after wash. Importantly, while A11 possessed these longer-acting effects, this study also demonstrated that the effects are reversible, which is an important factor for skin-whitening agents. Unlike most products on the market, A11 does not appear to act by inhibiting the tyrosinase enzyme and preliminary studies in a melanoma cell line suggest that the molecule may possess a different mechanism of action and may lead to skin-lightening via the control of melanocyte development and/or proliferation. Further studies are underway to better understand the molecular mechanisms of A11 using fish embryo and mouse melanoma cell lines. Interestingly, preliminary data from these studies also support potential use of these compounds in melanoma treatment. Additional in vivo studies utilizing a guinea pig or mouse model has been proposed to further validate the skin-lightening activity of A11 and related analogues.

Most Recent Patents

Recyclable Catalyst for Lower Cost Production of Fermentable Sugars and High Value Chemicals from Biomass

An assistant professor in chemical engineering at the University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point and former senior research scientist at the Montana State University Bio-Energy Center have developed a technology that reduces the processing cost and time to fractionate lignocellulose into fermentable sugars. The technology is centered on the use of a catalyst linked to a magnetic bead, which replaces the need for acids and enzymes in the pretreatment step of the production process. Because of its magnetic properties, the catalyst can easily be recovered from the reaction mixture and reused multiple times. It is also capable of functioning under cellulose loads as high as 50%, whereas loads for competing solid acid catalysts have been typically limited to less than 15%. The end result is a process that makes better use of carbon-neutral biomass by lowering production costs and increasing yield of desirable monomer sugars and high value chemical compounds such as vanillin, phenol, acetophenone.

Perovskites for Stable, High Activity Solid Oxide Fuel Cell Cathodes and Related Technologies

Using high-throughput computing and informatics to screen thousands of candidates, UW–Madison researchers have identified doped perovskite compounds that exhibit both high catalytic activity and thermodynamic stability under ORR operating conditions. These improvements are believed to enable lower-temperature operation of SOFCs and improve device lifetime.

In total, approximately 1950 distinct perovskite compositions were simulated. The most active predicted compounds were found to contain alloys of transition metals and redox-inactive dopant elements (ex., Zr, Hf, Nb, Re and Ta) that can enhance stability.

Slippery Antifouling Surfaces with Health, Environmental and Consumer Applications

UW–Madison researchers have developed a new approach for fabricating and functionalizing SLIPS on objects of arbitrary shape, size and topology (e.g., inside a hollow tube, etc.). The new SLIPS have greater control over how fluids behave when they come in contact. For example, they can be designed with oil-free regions to immobilize fluid droplets and/or control how they slide across the surface.

The new SLIPS are antifouling to bacteria, fungi and mammalian cells, and may be used for the controlled release of antibiotics and to prevent thick liquids or dirt from building up on a surface. They are fabricated via the infusion of oils into reactive polymer multilayers.