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2024 Cooperative Research Award Winner to Frank S. Bates, Hung-Jue Sue, Nikhil Verghese and Ha Pham

Frank S. Bates1, Hung-Jue Sue2, Nikhil Verghese3, Ha Pham4

1University of Minnesota, 2Texas A&M University, 3 Dow Chemical Company (Currently SABIC), 4 Dow Chemical Company (retired)

The Cooperative Research Award in Polymer Science and Engineering recognizes the cooperative research between industrial and academic or industrial and national laboratory scientists. The winners of the 2024 Cooperative Research Award are the collaborative research team of Hung-Jue Sue at Texas A&M University, Frank S. Bates at the University of Minnesota, Nikhil Verghese at the Dow Chemical Co. (currently SABIC) and Ha Pham at The Dow Chemical Co. (retired).

Frank S. Bates
University of Minnesota
Frank S. Bates, University of Minnesota
Hung-Jue Sue Texas A&M University
Hung-Jue Sue Texas A&M University
Ha Pham
Dow Chemical Company (retired)
Ha Pham, Dow Chemical Company (retired)
Nihkil Verghese,
Dow Chemical Company (Currently SABIC)
Nihkil Verghese, Dow Chemical Company (Currently SABIC)

This close collaboration between industrial and academic researchers addressed the challenge of toughening epoxy resins while enhancing processing performance for industrial applications. The awardees discovered and developed block copolymers of ethylene oxide and butylene oxide that microphase segregate on curing to form nanoscale spherical and “worm-like micelles”. Adding 5% by weight to an epoxy formulation increased the fracture toughness by up to 1900% and more than doubled the elongation at break, accompanied by a reduction in resin viscosity. In a productive collaboration spanning many years, Prof. Frank Bates developed the block copolymers, Prof. Hung-Jue Sue investigated the toughening mechanism, and Dr. Nikhil Verghese and Mr. Ha Pham of The Dow Chemical Company leveraged this understanding to produce commercial products. Their success resulted in 5 papers, 2 series of 21 patents, and a profitable new business for Dow with a family of products trademarked Fortegra™ (currently sold by Olin Corporation).

The Cooperative Research Award Symposium in Honor of Frank S. Bates, Ha Pham, Hung-Jue Sue, and Nikhil Verghese will be held at the 2024 Spring ACS National Meeting in New Orleans, LA, and the award presented at the PMSE/POLY Award Symposium.

Some selected publications are below:

Toughening of Epoxies with Block Copolymer Micelles of Wormlike Morphology
Macromolecules 2010, 43, 17, 7238–7243.

Effect of crosslink density on fracture behavior of model epoxies containing block copolymer nanoparticles
Polymer 2009, 50, 19, 4683-4689.

Nanocavitation in Self-Assembled Amphiphilic Block Copolymer-Modified Epoxy
Macromolecules 2008, 41, 20, 7616–7624