Lutkenhaus receives prestigious CAREER Award

February 21, 2011
| By: Aubrey Bloom

Jodie Lutkenhaus, a TEES researcher and assistant professor in the Artie McFerrin Department of Chemical Engineering, has been awarded a Faculty Early Career Development (CAREER) Award sponsored by the National Science Foundation (NSF).

As a recipient of the prestigious award, Lutkenhaus will receive $500,000 throughout the next five years for her research, which will examine the materials properties of ultra thin polymer films.

Specifically, Lutkenhaus will be studying a class of films called layer-by-layer (LbL) assemblies. Made from the alternating layers of oppositely charged molecules, LbL films have applications in energy storage and production, biomaterials, self-cleaning surfaces and more.

However, little is known regarding whether these films melt, soften or crosslink at a given temperature. Such knowledge, she notes, is important to discern if LbL assemblies are to be commercialized.

The Lutkenhaus laboratory has expertise in measuring and identifying thermal phenomena in thin solid films and is the first to observe crosslinking in LbL assemblies using calorimetry and temperature-controlled ellipsometry. These techniques will be applied to various kinds of LbL assemblies to identify other thermal phenomena previously unknown in LbL assemblies. If successful, this information will be used to design thermally responsive thin films, Lutkenhaus says.

Lutkenhaus, who completed her undergraduate career at The University of Texas at Austin, earned her Ph.D. at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in 2007 before joining Texas A&M's chemical engineering department in 2010.

At Texas A&M, Lutkenhaus focuses on designing organic thin films and nanostructures to enable the development of novel organic energy systems and smart-coatings. Areas of her research include learning how polymer thin films behave in confinement; fabrication of polymer nanowires and nanotubes; polyelectrolytes and layer-by-layer assembly; designing lithium-ion battery electrode and electrolyte materials; and understanding electrochemical processes within these materials.

The CAREER Award was established to support junior faculty within the context of their overall career development, combining in a single program the support of research and education of the highest quality and in the broadest sense. Through this program, the NSF emphasizes the importance on the early development of academic careers dedicated to stimulating the discovery process in which the excitement of research is enhanced by inspired teaching and enthusiastic learning.

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