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Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy in Chemistry (PhD)

College, School or Department Name

Department of Chemistry

First Advisor

Patricia A Heiden


The research described in this dissertation is comprised of two major parts. The first part studied the effects of asymmetric amphiphilic end groups on the thermo-response of diblock copolymers of (oligo/di(ethylene glycol) methyl ether (meth)acrylates, OEGA/DEGMA) and the hybrid nanoparticles of these copolymers with a gold nanoparticle core. Placing the more hydrophilic end group on the more hydrophilic block significantly increased the cloud point compared to a similar copolymer composition with the end group placement reversed. For a given composition, the cloud point was shifted by as much as 28 °C depending on the placement of end groups. This is a much stronger effect than either changing the hydrophilic/hydrophobic block ratio or replacing the hydrophilic acrylate monomer with the equivalent methacrylate monomer. The temperature range of the coil-globule transition was also altered. Binding these diblock copolymers to a gold core decreased the cloud point by 5-15 °C and narrowed the temperature range of the coil-globule transition. The effects were more pronounced when the gold core was bound to the less hydrophilic block. Given the limited numbers of monomers that are approved safe for in vivo use, employing amphiphilic end group placement is a useful tool to tune a thermo-response without otherwise changing the copolymer composition.

The second part of the dissertation investigated the production of value-added nanomaterials from two biorefinery “wastes”: lignin and peptidoglycan. Different solvents and spinning methods (melt-, wet-, and electro-spinning) were tested to make lignin/cellulose blended and carbonized fibers. Only electro-spinning yielded fibers having a small enough diameter for efficient carbonization (

Peptidoglycan (a bacterial cell wall material) was copolymerized with poly-(3-hydroxybutyrate), a common polyhydroxyalkanoate produced by bacteria with the objective of determining if a useful material could be obtained with a less rigorous work-up on harvesting polyhydroxyalkanoates. The copolyesteramide product having 25 wt.% peptidoglycan from a highly purified peptidoglycan increased thermal stability by 100-200 °C compared to the poly-(3-hydroxybutyrate) control, while a less pure peptidoglycan, harvested from B. megaterium (ATCC 11561), gave a 25-50 °C increase in thermal stability. Both copolymers absorbed more moisture than pure poly-(3-hydroxybutyrate). The results suggest that a less rigorously harvested and purified polyhydroxyalkanoate might be useful for some applications.