Emily Roberts

 Emily Roberts
Mentor: Dr. Anuj Chauhan
College of Engineering
 
"I have been curious about how things work since childhood. While taking a class with Dr. Chauhan, I would stay after lecture to discuss how science works on a daily basis and ask questions about why a glass of water slides on a table, how the grip on tires actually work and more. This curiosity led me to believe research may be a good fit for me. I could work on a problem and work on understanding the reaction mechanics outside of school. I would learn theoretical concepts in class and could directly apply them to research to solve a real world problem."

Major

Chemical Engineering

Minor

Art History

Research Interests

  • Nanoparticle Polymerization
  • UV Blocking Materials
  • Energy Production Technology

Academic Awards

  • UF University Scholars Program
  • Howard W. and Norma J. Smoyer Scholarship
  • Mensa Scholarship
  • Polk Education Foundation Scholarship
  • Tuesday Music Club Scholarship

Organizations

  • Society of Women Engineers
  • American Institute of Chemical Engineers
  • UF Club Women's Ultimate Frisbee Team

Volunteer

  • N/A

Hobbies and Interests

  • Art and Art History
  • Ultimate Frisbee
  • Traveling
  • Doing New Things

Research Description

Designing UV Blocking Nanoparticles
"As the general public becomes more aware of the damage that UV rays have to our environment as well as our bodies, UV blocking lotions and sunglasses have become very popular. Most people do not realize that UV rays can still damage the eye by coming through the top, sides, and bottoms of the sunglasses. Both short term and long term exposure can cause irritation and permanent damage to the eye. UV blocking contact lenses would completely cover the eye and not allow any UV radiation to penetrate. One potential approach for preparing UV blocking contact lenses is to disperse UV blocking nanoparticles in the lenses. Nanoparticles are frequently prepared by an emulsion based method that requires use of surfactant. However, since optical clarity is required for use in contact lenses, this method is not suitable. Surfactant could also cause toxicity when inside contact lenses. My project focuses on developing novel methods to prepare the nanoparticles without using surfactant and instead using diluents, free radical absorbers and chain transfer agents to manipulate the polymerization dynamics. Developing the nanoparticles requires extreme precision because a number of variables affect the polymerization, such as concentration, temperature, time, chemicals used, and actual process of making the particles. My research will focus on exploring the effect of various parameters on the size of the particles produced and understanding the mechanisms of the particle formation. In our preliminary research, a crosslinker, i.e., a reagent that forms bonds between polymer chains and links them together, is used to polymerize with the UV blocking material that is then encapsulated within the nanoparticles. A chain transfer agent is also used to allow growing polymer chains to be transferred to already formed polymers. In addition, benzoyl peroxide and 1,3-Diphenyl-1,3-propanedione (DP) are added as reagents to initiate the polymerization process. Benzoyl peroxide, in a small concentration, aides the start of the polymerization by splitting and initiating the reaction. There is a resulting amount of benzoyl peroxide in the nanoparticles, but not enough to cause any issues. At this point in time, the DP is thought to also act as an initiator for the reaction. However, as part of this proposal, further experiments will be conducted to find the actual role the DP plays during the reaction. Vitamin E can also play a pivotal role in the polymerization of nanoparticles. Originally used as a diluent, vitamin E was shown to aid the process, but further testing showed that it acted as an inhibitor to the polymerization. When using vitamin E, nanoparticles were not created as desired, and were too small for UV blocking applications. With further testing, vitamin E could potentially end the reaction at the desired time, which could help create the exact particle size and characteristics desired. Further testing will need to occur with analysis and comparison of results. Once the particles have been created, they would potentially be loaded into contact lenses. However, unreacted monomer should not be loaded into the contact lenses, because it would create toxicity and be undesirable. The nanoparticles must be cleaned after polymerization to ensure that no unreacted reagents are left. To do this, dialysis will be used to separate the unreacted components from the particles. Finally, the cleaned particles will be loaded into the contact lenses by soaking the lenses in a solution of particles in ethanol. After, particle loading lenses will be tested to determine the extent of UV blocking. Our goal is to create a class 1 UV blocking lens which requires 90% blocking of UVA and 99% blocking of UVB radiation.