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News

Foam polymer coating grown directly from gases

University Of Rochester : 14 October, 2013  (New Product)
A researcher at the University of Rochester has developed a process to grow highly customisable coatings of foam-like polymers. Useful because they combine light weight with rigid mechanical properties, they are used in a variety of ways, including the delivery of drugs in the body, as a framework for body tissues and implants, and as layers in laser targets for fusion research.
Foam polymer coating grown directly from gases
The process, developed by Mitchell Anthamatten, a chemical engineer at the University’s Hajim School of Engineering and Applied Science, involves growing foam polymers directly from gases.
 
Anthamatten developed a system in which a mixture of gases is pumped into a low pressure reactor containing a cold surface to encourage condensation. One of the condensed liquids actually forms the polymer material (the solid part of a sponge), while the other one temporarily occupies the spaces that become the pores in the foam material (the hollow part of a sponge). Although the liquids in the film don’t mix well — very much like water and oil - the process quickly solidifies the polymer film, just as the two liquids begin to separate from one another. By controlling the solidification rate, the size and distribution of the pores is controlled; the faster the coating is solidified, the smaller the pores become.
 
By adjusting the rate at which the gases were fed into the system, changing the temperature of the cold surface in the reactor, and using a chemical agent that helps solidify the coating, it is possible to coat foam polymers with different densities, thicknesses, shapes, and hole-sizes.
 
“With this process we can grow polymer coatings in which the density and pore structure varies in space,” said Anthamatten. “My hope is that the research leads to applications in a wide variety of fields, including medical, manufacturing, and high-tech research. This process is highly customizable, meaning that we can make adjustments along the way, shaping the material’s pore structure and density as it is grown. As a result, it will be easier to put foam polymers in hard-to-get-at places, or even on curved surfaces.”
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