Swelling and Force Generation of Absorbent Organic Materials

Paul Bonvallet, Department of Chemistry

Swellable organically modified silica (SOMS) is a hybrid organic/inorganic media discovered at the College of Wooster. Sometimes called “swellable glass,” this hydrophobic material absorbs many times its mass in organic liquids like acetone (Figure 1). The reversible swelling behavior has applications ranging from personal care products to environmental remediation. SOMS has been commercialized by ABS Materials in Wooster and is sold under the trade name Osorb. However, the fundamental chemical and physical principles that govern its behavior remain poorly understood.

Images of Osorb

Figure 1. Composite photograph (a) and optical microscope images (b) of SOMS before and after being swollen with acetone.

Students will help to design their experiments in the areas described above. Knowledge of organic chemistry and its laboratory techniques is helpful, but not required. Curiosity, organization, and attention to detail are essential in these projects.