Schmidt Lab


Our lab has expertise in polymer science and biopolymer chemistry with a focus on developing structure-property relationships. This includes the design, synthesis and characterization of polymeric materials on the nanometer to the micrometer length scales. Research results from the projects listed below are also used in designing green chemistry experiments for the general chemistry lab curricula.

1) High strength adhesives from plant proteins and phenolics (collaborative project)

Proteins are being modified and formulated in the presence of small molecule components from plants. The hypothesis is that natural polymers can be used for designing non-toxic, strong and sometimes wet-setting glues. Bond strengths of glues containing plant proteins are currently matching Super Glue in adhesion strength.  Ongoing studies are testing water resistance for specific applications.

2) Polysaccharide-based materials with antimicrobial properties (collaborative project)

Current emphasis is on making new materials from different types of cellulose and small molecule components from plants. Some plants may add desirable properties to the polymers without being toxic. The resulting materials are suitable for cosmetics, pharmaceutical, and food applications. Student projects will include research and chemistry laboratory development.

3) Phenolics with Anti-Cancer Activity from the Walnut Tree (collaborative project)

Phenols and polyphenols are natural antioxidants that may protect plants from microbial infections, fungal pathogens and insects. Several studies have evaluated potential for walnut extracts preventing diseases that are associated with oxidative stresses. Ongoing studies evaluate how phenolics extracted from walnuts can be used to prevent diseases associated with oxidative stresses such as cancer.

Phenolic compounds containing catecholFigure 1. Naturally occurring phenolic compounds containing catechol.
Advanced Sustainable Syst., 2018, 2 (3), 1700159

Corn, mussels, and a graph showing the relationship between adhesion and cateholFigure 2. Corn zein protein can be cross-linked with plant phenolics to mimic the
adhesion chemistry of marine mussels. Top left: Images of catechol molecule and
corn used for extracting zein protein. Top right: Mussels attaching to a glass surface.
The DOPA amino acid (red) is key for the cross-linking and adhesion of mussel proteins.
Bottom: Adhesion of zein-catechol as function of catechol concentration (in weight %).
Advanced Sustainable Syst., 2018, 2 (3), 1700159

Bar graph comparing the adhesion of different types of adhesivesFigure 3. When combined properly, corn zein protein and plant phenolics can generate
high strength adhesives. Bonding competes well with common commercial products, adhesion
of wet substrates is quite substantial and resistance to water is significant.
Advanced Sustainable Syst., 2018, 2 (3), 1700159