Peter Kofinas

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Current Research Projects

Selected Publications

Research Group

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Lamellar Block Copolymer

Cylindrical Block Copolymer


Current Research Projects  

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Synthetic Functional Polymer Hydrogel for Hemorrhage Control

The development of novel treatment approaches to trauma injury is necessary, as trauma remains a leading cause of death worldwide.  The goal of this project is to develop a new treatment method for traumatic and surgical wounds based on functional polymer microparticle hydrogels. We aim gain understanding of how the material design of the polymer hydrogel influences the key hemostatic factors that are necessary to rapidly stop blood loss by investigating the interplay of platelet aggregation, activation, and coagulation.  This polymer hydrogel material is able to induce the formation of a natural hemostatic plug in the absence of platelets or cells, and has enormous potential as a general hemostatic, especially with patients will platelet disorders. This synthetic haemostatic system is able to achieve the same end result as biological based haemostatics, yet without the innate risk of disease transmission or immunological response, and at a fraction of the price. 

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Reagentless Thin Film Nanostructured Biosensor for Pathogen Detection

The overall goal of this research is to explore the basic rules governing biotic-abiotic interfaces and other chemistry required to integrate different types of binding or capture reagents within a color responsive, nanostructured polymer matrix. The synthesis of polymer architectures is tailored to allow preferential recognition of bacterial pathogens. Upon recognition of small bacterial signaling molecules, the copolymer undergoes a structural change that results in a visible color change. The intense color change is visually observed without the need of extraneous equipment or the use of any supplementary enzymes. This allows the simple fabrication of a sensor to be utilized by individuals who would not need specific training to determine whether the polymer film has responded to a specific analyte.

The principles established from this work ultimately leads to the development of responsive flexible polymers that could form the basis for multiple or multiplexed “litmus test” polymers, configured as small “stickers”, large coating sheets, or even integrated into fabrics or coatings. For example, we expect that such color responsive polymers could serve as sensors in food packaging and labels by enabling the direct visualization of food contamination by pathogens. Sensors of this type would provide consumers and manufacturers with a quick and reliable method for quality monitoring and preservation of a large number of food products, a process that currently takes days to weeks. In addition, such a material would also be beneficial to the public, by aiding in the verification and location of pathogen outbreaks in potable water, food and agricultural products,  hospitals, or even in offices and homes. Additionally, we are designing similar color-changing polymers for the detection of Chemical and Biological Threats.

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Low Loss Polymer Nanoparticle Composites for Radio Frequency Devices

Materials with improved magneto-dielectric properties are promising for advanced applications in microwave communication devices and their miniaturization. Polymer-based composites are preferred because of their light weight, shape-flexibility, and better processability. This research aims to investigate core/shell  nanoparticles well-dispersed in polymer matrices with improved dielectric and magnetic properties at radio frequencies.  We aim to develop magnetodielectric nanoparticles to suppress the eddy current effect and further to tune the dielectric and magnetic properties of bulk polymer nanocomposites. We use simple synthesis and processing methods to obtain high permeability, low loss polymer composites with core/shell nanoparticles, and we fabricate functional nanostructures exhibiting improved magnetic and radio frequency properties.

Safer Solid Polymer Electrolytes for Li Batteries

Lithium-ion batteries are limited because of the safety of the electrolyte. The current generation of batteries uses organic solvents to conduct lithium between the electrodes. Occasionally, the low boiling point and high combustibility of these solvents lead to pressure build ups and fires within cells. Additionally, there are issues with electrolyte loss and decreased performance that must be accounted for in daily use. Thus, interest in replacing this system with a solid polymer electrolyte that can match the properties of an organic solvent is of great interest in battery research. We have developed a shape-conforming solid polymer electrolyte, which is able to interface with high energy/rate lithium electrode materials.  These solid flexible materials would be inherently safer replacing the current combustible liquid electrolyte systems with a non-flammable polymer system, and could be easily wound up into coils or processed as coatings or sheets. With the development of novel ionic liquid compounds from in this research, improved performance characteristics are expected of the polymer electrolyte.. A light weight, shape versatile polymer electrolyte based battery system could find wide spread application as energy sources in miniature medical devices like pacemakers, wireless endoscopes, implantable pumps, treatment probes and untethered robotic mobile manipulators.

Polymer Vector for Delivery of Therapeutic Genes to Cancer Cells

The goal of this research is to develop through innovative material design a polymer vector that can be used to deliver therapeutic genes to cancer cells. Clinically, such gene treatments have the potential to treat genetic based disorders such as Alzheimer’s, cystic fibrosis, muscular dystrophy and cancer.

Enzymatic Hydrogel Entrapment for the On-Demand Abiotic Synthesis or Degradation of Small Molecules

This research takes advantage of natural enzymatic processes to enable the reproducible abiotic synthesis or degradation of  biomolecules. An iabiotic entrapment method is created that suspends enzyme activity for an extended time period and enables reactivation on demand – at site and time dictated by the user. The template utilized to produce such molecules consist of polymer hydrogels having various monomer functionalities including positive, negative, and hydrophobic functional groups, which when polymerized and incorporated into the immediate proximity of the enzyme, create a stabilizing cavity. We aim to develop a generic “toolbox” appropriate entrapment of the enzymes and a generic method for their subsequent activation.

Nanostructured Polymer Coatings for Improved Biocompatibility of Stents and Vascular Grafts

Coronary heart disease (CHD) affects 16 million people in the U.S., with half of the cases resulting in myocardial infarctions. Primary treatments for CHD include angioplasty and stent implantation in situations involving low vascular occlusion. The popular drug eluting stents have finite lifetimes, sometimes leading to late term thrombosis and restenosis. Thus, new materials must be designed with the ability to preferentially regulate cell function that can enhance or supplant current treatments. Directional endothelial cell adhesion and motility, along with decreased thrombogenicity, may aid in the design of novel therapeutics and biomaterials to treat cardiovascular disease, such as the nanopatterned polymer coatings used in this research.

The long-term objective of this project is to design novel biocompatible stent and vascular coatings with the ability to preferentially regulate cell function. This work lays the foundation for the manufacture of a novel line of nanostructured polymers to produce improved vascular biomaterials. The outcome of this research will provide valuable insight into the role of environmental signals for controlling cell behavior, contributing to the design and manufacture of new stent coatings and other vascular biomaterials. The proposed coatings will improve material biocompatibility, thus increasing the lifetime and reducing the chance for restenosis and rejection.

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