Professor James Economy's Group
Professor Economys Group Currently Pursues the Following Areas of Research on Advanced Materials
The work on the aromatic copolyesters had its origins in Professor Economy's discovery and commercial development some years ago of the liquid crystalline aromatic copolyesters. ($100 million industry today). In the last several years Economy's group has moved into completely new directions based on this earlier work including design of a completely new family of very high temperature thermosetting, resins, fundamental studies on the role of interchain transesterification reactions (ITR) with respect to randomizing or ordering the sequence distribution in these copolyesters and further tailoring of these new materials for use as ultra low dielectric constant substrates, matrices for advanced composites, high performance adhesive bonds, and photoimageable films.
Related activities currently underway include a new approach to recycling the crosslinked polyester (using ITR), solid state processing of the cured polyesters and generating nanofoamed structures stable to over 400oC.
The program on new types of adsorption systems had its origin in an earlier discovery by Professor Economy of activated carbon fibers (currently $10 million sales). Starting in 1990 he initiated a program to better understand the fundamental mechanisms governing adsorption and desorption of contaminants by high surface area carbons and to reduce the cost of the fibers ~$100/lb. Major progress has been made in characterizing the nature of the micropores using STM and tailoring the chemistry of the micropore surface to selectively adsorb trace contaminants. As a result, his group is very close to establishing a comprehensive understanding of the mechanism of adsorption as well as a capability to remove contaminants down to the low ppb range. His group has also developed a new kind of activated carbon fiber which costs ~ $1.00/lb, and has 15 X the wear resistance of the current material. His group is currently exploring commercial development of the new material through a novel concept of establishing a "virtual business." Areas for research currently include design of these new fibers for water purification, air clean-up, protective clothing (and masks), catalyst supports and continued elucidation of the fundamental mechanisms of adsorption and desorption. Completely new types of systems for either adsorption or separation of contaminants are now being developed.
In the area of "ceramic and metal matrix composites (MMC's)" Professor Economy has two programs underway. In the case of ceramics, he and his group have recently shown that they can prepare carbon fiber/BN matrix composites starting with an easily processible borazine oligomer. One of the unique features of the borazine oligomer is its tendency to form a liquid crystalline phase (this is to our knowledge the first inorganic liquid crystalline polymer reported). This feature greatly reduces the potential for stress at interfaces due to CTE mismatches, because of the unique capability of LCP's to organize at interfaces. With this easily processed oligomer Economy's group is exploring a wide range of areas including low dielectric constant substrates for microelectronic devices, adhesives for metal-ceramics and a wide range of carbon and inorganic fiber composites. Of particular interest is the potential use of the C/BN as an aircraft brake, since it shows 20% of the rate of wear observed with commercially used C/C.
In the case of MMC's Economy's group has been exploring use of ultra high strength-modulus, single crystal flakes of AlB2 as a reinforcement for aluminum. This work has progressed to the point where high aspect ratio flakes can be formed in a molten aluminum alloy at a concentration of 5-10% flakes. The knowledge to generate very high aspect ratio flakes > 100/1 has now been developed. Work to concentrate the flakes to higher volume loadings is underway to further maximize the mechanical properties of this novel family of composites.
For more information on breakthrough research which we are currently conduction which is not yet in a form to have it's own research page, look here. Each project will have a short description and the current researcher's contact information. Each of the above projects also contains information which we cannot disclose here over the world wide web. We implore you to contact the researcher for the project you are interested in to learn more information. If necessary, non-disclosure agreements are available