Environmentally Friendly Polymers Bring Spotlight to Cullen College Professor

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Megan Robertson, associate professor of chemical and biomolecular engineering, was honored in May with the 2018 Sparks-Thomas Award from the Rubber Division of the American Chemical Society. During the conference in Indianapolis, Robertson presented her latest findings in the field of sustainable elastomers to fellow polymer researchers.

The Sparks-Thomas Award (sponsored by ExxonMobil) has been given since 1986 by the Society’s Rubber Division to an early career scientist, technologist or engineer for outstanding contributions in the field of elastomers. It is named for the developers of butyl rubber, William J. Sparks and Robert M. Thomas.

Robertson’s 2018 award honors her research into identifying vegetable oil and fatty acid-based materials that could replace petrochemical products as the basic ingredients in the manufacturing of elastomers. Elastomers are the kind of polymers that can greatly stretch and deform, then quickly revert to their original form. (Think tires and rubber bands, for example.) The goal is to develop new, superior materials that maintain all the benefits of today’s products while also being kinder to the environment, as well as to uncover new, advantageous properties.