VOLUME 33, NUMBER 20 THURSDAY, March 7, 2002

Alexandridis receives Sigma Xi award
Chemical engineering professsor recognized as prestigious "Young Investigator"

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A faculty member in the School of Engineering and Applied Sciences who uses molecules and particles as "LEGOs" to develop advanced materials at the nano-scale that end up in products ranging from paints to contact lenses has been chosen to receive the prestigious 2002 Sigma Xi Young Investigator Award.

The award in the physical sciences, given every two years by Sigma Xi, the international science honors organization, recognizes an individual on the basis of scientific accomplishments, relevance of research and the individual's ability to communicate his or her work to the general public. Nominations are sought from universities and colleges across the country.

Paschalis Alexandridis, associate professor in the Department of Chemical Engineering, is being recognized for work uncovering fundamental principles behind the ability of amphiphilic (dual-nature) molecules to self-assemble, work that is aimed at making intricate structures at scales ranging from nanometer (one billionth of a meter) to micrometer (one millionth of a meter).

Alexandridis, also a recipient of the National Science Foundation's Faculty Early Career Development Award, is an expert in tuning chemical systems to fully exploit the properties of amphiphilic block copolymers—long molecules made by combining molecules that have affinities for different media, such as hydrophobic versus hydrophilic—to develop useful products.

The ability to exploit these copolymers will lead to significant new markets for products in a broad range of industries, ranging from paints and coatings to pharmaceuticals and such personal-care products as shampoo/conditioners.

Alexandridis has had funding from and research collaborations with such companies as Procter & Gamble, Bausch & Lomb and Xerox. Western New York companies that have funded his work include Quebecor World Buffalo, Inc.; Technicor, Inc.; Protective Closures Co., Inc.; FlexOvit USA, Inc., and Silipos. Some of the local funding was through the Strategic Partnership for Industrial Resurgence program in the UB Office of Science, Technology Transfer and Economic Outreach.

"The challenge is to formulate a stable liquid or gel product that is composed of ingredients that do not like each other, that have an affinity for, and therefore work best in, different kinds of systems, and to retain the desired function and performance of each ingredient," Alexandridis explained.

He has worked on capitalizing on self-assembly in an extensive variety of applications, including developing better inks for ink-jet printers by finding efficient ways to combine color and nonbleed properties in ink; creating new pharmaceuticals that can be administered as liquids, but can turn into a gel for more effective drug delivery; improving the stability of platelet and liposome dispersions by using copolymers to modify the adhesion between these particles, and developing better contact-lens materials with the best microstructures so that they are more comfortable to wear.

The National Science Foundation recently funded his study on how polar organic solvents that are soluble in water and are used in water-based paints affect other ingredients in paints, such as polymers, surfactants and latex. The goal is to find a way to replace volatile organic solvents and hazardous air pollutants now used in water-based formulations to create paints that work as well—or even better—but are more environmentally friendly.

Alexandridis also recently was funded by NSF to develop a research and education program on the self-organization of amphiphilic block copolymers for the preparation of highly ordered materials. This project involves the novel use of non-uniform electric fields for directing the two- and three-dimensional organization of nanoparticles.

Since coming to UB in 1997, Alexandridis has received almost $1.2 million in research grants.

He has authored or co-authored more than 90 scientific papers and given more than 90 lectures at scientific conferences. He is a recipient of the Dow Outstanding New Faculty Award from the American Society for Engineering Education and a lectureship award from the Japan Research Institute of Material Technology.

He received his doctorate from Massachusetts Institute of Technology and was a postdoctoral associate and assistant professor at Lund University.


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