A multitude of everyday products – ranging from cosmetics and shampoo to computers and furniture – are made of composite materials. Composites are made by combining two or more natural or artificial elements, with the result being significantly different and often stronger than the original materials. Intrigued by the potential and properties of composites, Ali Slim chose to pursue a Ph.D. degree in chemical and biomolecular engineering at the UH Cullen College of Engineering.
Slim is studying nanocomposites – specifically a silica nanoparticle grafted with polystyrene chains – with Jacinta Conrad, Frank M. Tiller Associate Professor of chemical and biomolecular engineering. Earlier this month, he won first place – out of 133 entries – in a student poster competition at the Society of Rheology annual meeting. His poster addressed the topic of nanocomposite transport in complex polymer media, a project undertaken in collaboration with Professor Ramanan Krishnamoorti (ChBE) and a former graduate student Ryan Poling-Skutvik (PhD 2017).
His research focuses on the effects of interactions between polymer media and nanocomposites with the aim to achieve a fundamental understanding of how these composites work. When nanoparticles are added to polymer solutions, there is a fundamental change. The motion of these particles and their impact on polymer chains determine the composite material’s performance and the enhancement of its mechanical properties.
“Composites are very promising materials and exhibit interesting properties,” said Slim. “I chose to study them as I think they will have even more impact in the future.”
The Society of Rheology is composed of physicists, chemists, biologists, engineers and mathematicians interested in advancing and applying rheology, which is defined as the science of deformation and flow of matter.