Sukhishvili receives NSF grant to study functional polymer coatings

Sukhisvili SvetlanaDr. Svetlana Sukhishvili, professor in the Department of Materials Science and Engineering, has received a $424,000 grant from the National Science Foundation (NSF) to conduct fundamental research on controlling the structure of functional polymer coatings for biomedical and optical applications.

Sukhishvili leads the project “Nonlinear Growth of Polyelectrolyte Multilayers: Chain Dynamics and Film Structure” as the principal investigator. Two doctoral students will assist her on the project. Using advanced techniques, they will explore the effects of various molecular and film deposition parameters on film layering.

Biomedical and optical applications necessitate the need for coatings that are easily deposited on a variety of surfaces through an environmentally friendly process and have structure controlled by deposition procedure and conditions. Yet currently available biomedical functional polymer coatings do not deliver multiple drugs such as anesthetics, antibiotics and growth factors, sequentially.

The goal is to achieve structured films which support such sequential delivery and can be deposited through fewer steps. Advanced instrumental techniques will be used to take snapshots of how multilayered structures, water content, and film mechanical properties can be manipulated.

“We can create a smart coating that responds to the environment and delivers the payload in a predictable way. We can also program the time when such a coating releases therapeutics - for example, an anesthetic followed by an antibiotic, followed by a growth factor,” said Sukhishvili. “Our research on layered films lays the groundwork for such a delivery which is highly needed for many types of biomedical implants”.

The project will create a fertile training ground for participating graduate, undergraduate and high school students.

Sukhishvili is the academic advisor of Women in Materials Science graduate students organization and leads several outreach activities to promote female and minority engagement in engineering.