Structure-Property Relationships for Bio-Based Materials

Read more about the history of the project.

One of the most exciting data-driven discoveries of my career has been the realization that materials derived from renewable and sustainable resources (such as plant-based ingredients) are superior to petroleum-derived ingredients in a way that no one had expected — they offer a way out of seemingly inescapable performance trade-offs that have until now limited our vision of what organic materials can do.

The key realization that we learned from crunching through the data was that when chemicals are derived from petroleum, there are some “built-in” biases that cause some chemical “motifs” to appear very often while others appear not at all. As a result, what we know about how organic materials behave in general is really not all that general — it is a set of heuristics that applies primarily to petroleum-based materials. Move away from petroleum-based materials and heuristics are no longer valid. The downside is that it is harder to predict the performance of bio-based materials than we thought. The upside, however, is that levels of performance that we previously imagined to be unattainable are in fact available to us — if we can find the right bio-based chemicals.

To understand more, scroll through these presentations.

You can also request a copy of my recent book chapters on the topic.