Alex Zhukhovitskiy receives NSF CAREER Award to develop plastics with enhanced properties

November 23, 2021 | By UNC-Chapel Hill Chemistry

Alex Zhukhovitskiy, assistant professor of chemistry, is the recipient of the National Science Foundation’s Faculty Early Career Development (CAREER) Award.  

The award will be applied to his project, “Bottom-up construction of re-configurable entanglements toward polymer networks with switchable toughness.” The Zhukhovitskiy Group seeks to develop a platform method to make ultra-tough yet soft materials, with applications ranging from tires to soft robotics. Their experimental approach introduces previously absent molecular control of how polymers tangle. 

“Our research seeks to make soft materials more resilient to fracture by controlling how polymer chains are tangled in the material,” explains Zhukhovitskiy. “Improved fracture resistance would ultimately enhance the longevity of these materials and thereby reduce their contribution to plastic waste pollution.” 

The CAREER award is the NSF’s most prestigious early-career faculty award. It recognizes individuals who have the potential to serve as academic role models in research and education and to lead advances in the mission of their department. 

Learn more about the NSF CAREER awards