Gary E. Wnek, Ph.D.

Macromolecular Science and Engineering, Case Western Reserve University




1043 ERF


Poly(acrylic acid) (PAA) gels have been of broad scientific interest due to large volumetric changes that can accompany changes in pH or monovalent/multi-valent cation exchange, and as a possible crude mimic of cytoskeletal proteins. In collaboration with colleagues in the Department of Pediatric Neurology, it has been verified that PAA gels can exhibit large, static electrical potentials of up to -120mV, leading us to investigate the effect of bathing salt composition and concentration on the magnitude of the potential. Specific attention has been directed to the influence of the bathing anion, and especially interesting effects with dihydrogen phosphate have been observed. This previously unexplored area may have connections to important biological phenomena. Toward that end, a proposed involvement of macromolecules in the process of nerve signal conduction will be outlined. In a separate study, we investigated the synthesis of PAA gels in the presence of various added salts, which has led to a variety of materials with interesting elastic and viscoelastic properties. A summary of property characterization of this new class of soft materials will be presented.

Gary Wnek received a B.S. in Chemical Engineering from Worcester Polytechnic Institute in 1977 and a Ph.D. in Polymer Science and Engineering from the University of Massachusetts, Amherst, in 1980. He has been a member of the faculty of the Department of Materials Science and Engineering at MIT and the Department of Chemistry at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, and was Founding Chair of the Chemical Engineering Department at Virginia Commonwealth University. He joined Case Western Reserve University in 2004 and is currently the Joseph F. Toot, Jr., Professor of Engineering and Professor of Macromolecular Science and Engineering. Research interests include polymers for applications in drug delivery and regenerative medicine, synthetic macromolecular constructs that mimic physiological functions (muscle and neurons), bio-mimicking approaches to impart fire resistance to urethane foams and related materials, and multi-functional polymer systems for sensor applications.
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