Dr. Brettmann’s current research interests focus on developing technologies that enable multicomponent, rapidly customizable product design, with a specific focus on polymer systems. Mass customization of manufactured material goods presents significant technical challenges, but could yield significant rewards, similar to advances in “just in time” logistics and on-demand consumer services. Substantial challenges in engineering and design, extending from the complexity of multicomponent functional materials and the difficulty in applying scientific principles to these complex systems, slow material product development. Her research group designs and studies new processing and characterization technologies using both experiments and theory, focusing on linking molecular to micron scale phenomena in complex systems to product performance.
Solution processing methods, such as roll-to-roll coating, 3D printing and electrospinning are common ways to transform polymers into functional and complex products. They are highly scalable and used in many different fields, from electronics to building materials to pharmaceutical products. Our research group applies these processes to new materials and examines the molecular-level interactions of the materials during processing, including rheological studies, dynamic behavior during evaporation and phase separation.
Polyelectrolytes, or charged polymers, are valuable components to many industrially relevant formulations. As brushes they can be used to aid in dispersion of particles, formation of nanostructured surfaces and to change surface properties. When oppositely charged polyelectrolytes are mixed, they form complexes that are useful processing aids, adhesives and encapsulants. In our research group, we focus on using charged polymers in complex mixtures, processing polyelectrolytes into products and developing a fundamental understanding of how they interact with a variety of other complex materials, including multivalent ions, active pharmaceutical ingredients, cellulosic materials and active surfaces.
Manufacturing of functional products from renewable natural materials is of great interest across many industries. In addition to the eco-friendly nature of many of these materials, they often have molecular and microstructures that can be utilized to provide additional functional benefits. As part of the Renewable Bioproducts Institute at Georgia Tech, we are utilizing nanocellullose as a functional additive for pharmaceutical products. The surface charge present on the particles, their small size and their safety for pharmaceutical use combine to make them a very attractive excipient for advanced drug products. We are also looking to expand our work into bioproducts beyond cellulose to provide a library of options for rational design of functional materials.