I am Chemistry Professor and researcher at McMaster University. The main focus of our research work is the preparation of silicone-based materials. Silicone polymers are used in many areas of technology, from LED lighting to biomaterials; most people will be familiar with the feel of silicones as sealants in bathtubs or personal care products like cosmetics and antiperspirant sticks. Our research is focussed on improving the process to make silicones or, more interestingly, to make new silicones.
Silicones are normally complex mixtures of materials. More precise materials have much narrower ranges of properties. We are developing highly branched silicones that can be used to moderate the properties of ‘sticky’ silicone adhesives used in wound dressings and sealants for HEPA filters in sensitive healthcare applications.
As part of a focus on Green Chemistry in our research, we are incorporating natural materials in silicone polymers. The presence of the natural materials significantly improves the sustainability of the silicones. A far more interesting result is the new suite of properties that the natural materials convey into the silicones. We have created silicone elastomers based on soybean oil, prepared thermally stable silicone foams using lignin, an ingredient of wood, and most recently created new silicone copolymers by degrading used automobile tires. In the latter case, none of the materials are green, but the process provides a method that closes the loop on tires by allowing the recovery of useful materials from what is otherwise a complex, environmental burden.
Frederic Stanley Kipping Award in Silicon Chemistry, 2016; Macromolecular Engineering and Science Award, 2017