The New York State Center for Polymer Synthesis doesnt look much different from other university research centers from the outside, but walk inside and talk to our faculty and students, and youll discover the excitement of a unique world-class facility. Dedicated in 1998, the center is the synthesis of a history that has impacted several generations of polymer scientists and a radical interdisciplinary approach to faculty-student research. The facility houses advanced technology for the discovery, scale-up, processing, and evaluation of unique polymers needed by many industries. The Centers focus is grounded in three areas: ground-breaking research, corporate and government partnerships, and undergraduate and graduate education.
One of the older, more established
programs in the field, Rensselaers polymer research
began through the dedication of faculty such as Bill Rauscher,
who spent more than 30 years here
as student, mentor, and colleague. Following his death in
1972, friends and faculty established
the William H. Rauscher Lectureships
to honor his devotion to both the program and his areas of
special interest. Another endowed lecture honors the accomplishments
of Charles E. Reed, a
pioneer in the silicone industry and long-time GE researcher
One of Rensselaers faculty members
who has influenced the study of polymers for decades is Fred
Billmeyer, Jr., RPI faculty member for 20 years. His classic
books, Textbook of Polymer Science and Experiments
in Polymer Science, are used throughout the world, referenced
in schools and in laboratories, both on campuses and within
Our faculty members are involved in the editorial process
of two of the top journals in the field. Len Interrante was
founding editor of Chemistry of Materials and continues
as chief editor today. Jim Moore is associate editor for Macromolecules.
Both editorial offices are located here at Rensselaer.
In 1999, Moore also won the Presidential
Green Chemistry Challenge Award, presented by the U.S. Environmental
Protection Agency, in recognition for his research, which
involves turning waste cellulose from paper mills into the
raw materials that go into new plastics. This monumental task
was done in conjunction with Biofine Corporation. Using discarded
cellulose from paper mills, which normally would end up in
a landfill, Biofine produces levulinic acid, which can be
efficiently converted into diphenolic acid.
Jim Crivello is also world-renowned
for his work on photo-initiated polymerizations and their
applications in photoresists and adhesive curing. Photoacid
generators such as diphenyliodonium and triphenylsulfonium
salts were pioneered by Crivello and are often called "Crivello
The research by Moore and Crivello are just two outstanding
examples of how the New York State Center for Polymer Synthesis
provides bridges for companies to work with Rensselaer faculty
and students in designing, producing, and testing novel polymers
that can change the way we live and work. Many high technology
industries remain materials limited, meaning that significant
improvements in technology could be made if new, structurally
tailored polymers with specific, predictable properties were
prepared. Often, the creation of new polymers spawns entirely
new industries. We are also committed to working with companies
on their polymer-related problems. The centers success
in these areas is due to our extensive foundation in polymer
science and special expertise in polymer synthesis. We have
18 faculty members, including seven new hires, 75 graduate
students, and $3-4 million in current, on-going research projects.
Faculty at the center are doing research on protein design
and synthesis, studying protein folding and its effect on
diseases, using enzymes for polymer synthesis, preparing polymer
membranes for fuel cells, and creating polymer nanocomposites.
They stay on the cutting edge with access to an extensive
collection of characterization tools.
Of course, most esteemed university
polymer programs can boast great physical facilities, but
here at Rensselaer, our success reaches to the core of a students
research experience. The centers interdisciplinary approach
has lowered the barriers involved in world-changing scientific
advances. It is very easy to create research teams among faculty
and students from different departments. We have many such
joint projects currently in operation. However, most importantly,
students view their faculty and advisors as friendly, accessible,
and as invaluable contributors to their future success.
For Rensselaer, the New York State
Center for Polymer Synthesis is more than just a building
with laboratories. For us, it represents a significant rebirth
of our polymer program and its mission to create new scientists,
new partnerships, and new industries.