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Assistant Professor or untenured Associate Professor in the Department of Chemical Engineering at Stanford University

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Jennifer Lu

Creating Material Platforms to Harness Submolecular Conformational Changes

University of California, Merced

Event Details:

Monday, March 28, 2022
4:00pm - 5:00pm PDT


(In Person) AllenX-101X

This event is open to:

Jennifer Lu

Jennifer Lu
Materials Science and Engineering
University of California, Merced

Abstract: Creating Material Platforms to Harness Submolecular Conformational Changes

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The first part of the talk will delve into an ongoing research project: creating low-energy driven switches/actuators through the investigation of the conformational dynamics of dibenzocyclooctadiene (DBCOD) from Boat (close structure – ground state) to Chair (open structure – local minimum). Achieving the goal will result in thermal contraction polymers and low-energy driven mechanoresponsive platforms hitherto unattainable.

Such a concept mirrors nature’s processes and systems that depend on controlled conformational changes. Biomolecule conformational changes translate to modulation of diverse cellular processes that sustain life. We revealed DBCOD, two rigid phenyl rings connected to a flexible eight-membered ring, which acts like a hinge. The intramolecular hydrogen bonding, created through substitution, stabilizes Boat and thus raises the temperature at which Boat and Chair can readily interchange from – 60 °C to room temperature and above. DBCOD-containing polyamides exhibit negative thermal expansion from 0°C to 85 °C as Boat is converted into Chair. A covalently connected bilayer – made of an aligned carbon nanotube sheet and a polymer layer of DBCOD units oriented perpendicularly to CNTs – offers low-energy driven and directional actuation. In tandem with poly(vinylidene fluoride), this platform can harvest low-grade thermal energy and convert it into electricity, 86 times greater energy than PVDF alone.

For the second part, I introduce educational training programs offered by MACES (Merced NAnomaterials Center for Energy and Sensing). The center has successfully lowered the barrier for STEM education and produced impressive outcomes, demonstrated by STEM job attainment and advanced degree pursuit with some awarded NSF, DOE and NASA fellowships.

Jennifer Lu is one of the first three faculty members who established the Materials Science and Engineering program at the University of California, Merced ‐‐ California’s newest research university. Prior to joining UC Merced, she spent 10 years in R&D at IBM and Agilent Technologies developing next generation semiconducting processing and new devices. She holds over a dozen of industrial patents. She was a recipient of the DARPA Young Investigator award. In 2015, she established the first major center, Merced NAnomaterials Center for Energy and Sensing (MACES), at UC Merced in 2015 and has served as the center director.

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