Plant Polymers @ Virginia Tech

The plant polymers research group
@ Virginia Tech



Graduate education

The future is now for the science and technology of sustainable, renewable, plant-based materials. Students gain a great polymer science education in the context of plant-based materials such as wood, soybeans, bamboo, etc.




Polymer science is rich with career opportunities. Our students typically start careers in the field of natural polymers, or synthetic polymers, and/or combinations of natural & synthetic polymers. Most of our research is requested by the industry- students enjoy great industry exposure, conducting fundamental research on applied topics.


Nat Starch project lowres.jpg

The Science

We focus on lignin chemistry. Lignin is an incredible plant polymer; it's why trees stand tall; it's the original self-healing polymer. We seek new methods to control lignin reactivity, a huge technological challenge and opportunity.

Surface chemistry is a frequent topic in our group, typically wood surface chemistry as in wood/resin interactions. In North America most folks build homes using wood-based composites, a sustainable industry that innovates due to competitive and legislative pressures. We help by studying how resins operate in combination with wood. Huge industrial implications.

We also specialize in biomass rheology, the study of deformation and flow in materials like wood, switchgrass, and bamboo. These materials are processed under elevated temperature and moisture conditions. We study their rheological behavior to help understand their structure and behavior during processing.

There are many other research topics in our group and most are fundamental projects requested by the industry. Students work with the industry from the beginning of their projects, giving the industry ample opportunity to learn about the students. It's a win-win situation for the students and our industry collaborators.

Current group members are identified below.