Researchers are developing sustainable new adhesives for industry

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Karan Dixit. Credit: University of Colorado at Boulder

Karan Dixit (Ph.D.MatSci’22) is first author on an article. ACS Applied Materials & Interfaces It introduces new adhesive materials that not only allow for easier sticking and non-sticking, but may ultimately contribute to sustainability efforts around the world.

During his time at CU Boulder in the Materials Science and Engineering program, Dixit studied polymer chemistry and mechanics with Assistant Professor Carson Bruns. We asked him about the paper, his current work and more.

What was your course in the College of Engineering and Applied Sciences and how did you come to Boulder?

Dikshit: Before joining CU Boulder, I had the incredible opportunity to gain research experience at the esteemed National Chemical Laboratory in India. It was during this time that my passion for making a positive impact on the world through scientific study and sustainable materials grew immensely.

As I considered my next academic step, CU Boulder stood out as a beacon of cutting-edge research and innovation—especially at the fascinating intersection of sustainability and soft materials. It boasted a wonderful location set against the beautiful backdrop of the Flatirons, which helped me decide to come here.

I received my Ph.D. in Materials Science and Engineering in the summer of 2022. Currently, I have the privilege of working for FLO Materials, a company in Berkeley, California dedicated to tackling the pressing issue of industrial plastic waste. FLO Materials aims to revolutionize the industry by providing an exciting platform technology that enables the creation of infinitely recyclable polymers.

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How would you describe the work and results of this paper to a high school student?

Traditional adhesives are often derived from petroleum refining and are difficult to dispose of in an environmentally friendly manner. New environmentally friendly materials such as lipoic acid, cyclodextrin, and polyrotaxane—as we discuss in the paper—have other beneficial properties such as sticking together and being easy to remove without leaving a residue or harming the surfaces involved.

These materials are also made from biologically derived molecules. Cyclodextrin, for example, comes from plant starch. Using renewable resources helps reduce dependence on fossil fuel-based options and the sustainable nature of materials opens up the possibility of recycling them in other applications to further reduce waste generation.

What are some other possible applications of this research?

A wide range of real-world applications for these pressure-sensitive supramolecular adhesives are incredibly promising. In the medical field, these adhesives have the potential to revolutionize wound care by providing a smooth and secure bond to bandages and dressings. Their pressure-sensitive nature allows for easy and painless removal, increasing patient comfort during the healing process. In the field of electronics, they offer exciting opportunities for the development of flexible circuits.

Anything else you’d like to say about your time at CU Boulder?

In addition to lab work, my time at the University of Colorado Boulder brought significant personal growth and development. Engaging in research, attending conferences and participating in seminars allowed me to step out of my comfort zone and embrace new challenges. Presenting my work to the wider scientific community improved my communication skills and confidence in sharing my research findings with others.

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These experiences not only deepened my knowledge but also sharpened my critical thinking and problem solving skills. Beyond the academic field, I had the opportunity to collaborate with many different people from different cultural backgrounds. These interactions enriched my perspective and developed a greater appreciation for different approaches and ideas. Being part of a supportive and collaborative environment has encouraged me to become a more effective team player, build stronger relationships, and learn from the expertise of my peers.

More information:
Karan Vivek Dikshit et al., Pressure-Sensitive High Molecular Weight Adhesives Based on Lipoic Acid and Bio-Friendly Dynamic Cyclodextrin and Polyrotaxane Cross-Linkers, ACS Applied Materials & Interfaces (2023) DOI: 10.1021/acsami.3c00927

Press Information:
ACS application objects and interfaces

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