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Research & Initiatives

Find out more about current and upcoming research in the Alexander Research Team below!

If you are interested in collaborating with or joining the Alexander Research Team, or if you are interested in using equipment housed in our lab, please visit the contact page. We would love to hear from you!

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Extraction and Utilization of Biopolymers from Mixed Food Waste

The focus of this research platform is to convert real-world food and agriculture waste products into useful starting materials derived from cellulose and lignin. Our goal is to push technology towards the ability of mixed, variable waste by understanding the effects of initial composition, natural degradation/decomposition, and polydispersity on the structure-property-function relationships of biomaterial composites. Successful completion of this goal will reduce the amount of food waste in landfills and its contributions to climate and reduce the need for complex and costly sorting processes.

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Structural Uniformity of Cellulose Gels and Microgels​

The focus of this research platform is to uncover key design parameters to tune the self-assembly of native cellulose and the resultant gels, with a focus on biomedical and environmental applications. Our goal is to address the significant variability in the structure and performance of cellulose materials, which prevents its translation to new technology, by providing new understanding of key factors guiding coagulation. Successful achievement of the research goal will reduce the need to chemically modify cellulose and facilitate its use in biomedical and environmental applications, particularly related to the gut and soil microbiomes.


Bioinspired Responsive Systems

This research platform focuses on living systems as guides for micromechanical systems and bioinspired materials. The living system in this work is the slingshot spider, which exhibits one of just two examples in nature of use of an external tool to achieve ultrafast motion. In examining this living system, we will uncover fundamental design parameters related to 1) biomaterials with high toughness and low hysteresis in humid, dynamic environments, 2) small scale micron and nanoscale biomechanical systems with nano and microsecond response times, and 3) design of high friction grips that do not damage the surface of delicate biological samples.

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Dynamic Compatibilizers for Mixed Waste Plastics​

This research platform uses bioinspired self-assembly and structural hierarchy as a tool to improve the recyclability of mixed polyethylene (PE) and polypropylene (PP) waste streams and improve the material properties of PE/PP blends. Our goal is to advance fundamental understanding of self-assembly at and across polymer interfaces as a tool to increase dispersion of PP droplets in PE matrices and design material platforms where the both the polymers and the compatibilizer are recyclable. More specifically, we use polymer processing as a tool to guide self-assembly and crystallization and tune mechanics of the recycled polymer blends. Successful completion of this goal will reduce the plastics going to landfills or eventually pollute the environment, which significantly impacts coastal communities in Alabama.

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