MatSE Assistant Professor Christopher Evans Receives (NSF) CAREER Award

MatSE Assistant Professor Christopher Evans recently received a National Science Foundation (NSF) CAREER Award for his submitted proposal, “Nanoscale Resolution of Interfacial Materials Physics in Dry, Ionic Polymers.”

The NSF’s Early Career Development Program’s CAREER awards are prestigious, competitive awards given to young faculty who exemplify the role of teacher-scholar through outstanding research, excellent education, and the integration of education and research. The program will provide five years of support for each award. 

Materials Science and Engineering Assistant Professor Chris Evans
Materials Science and Engineering Assistant Professor Chris Evans

Polymers are important industrial materials that are flexible, lightweight, and readily processable. When positive or negative electric charges are attached to these polymer molecules they become "ionic polymers" which can enable applications in technologies ranging from flexible batteries to soft robotics to wearable sensors. In all of these areas, a positive and negative electrode will be in contact with the material and the behavior of the polymer/electrode interface will impact the overall performance.



“This research is important because the polymer-electrode interface ultimately determines how well a battery or capacitor will perform and how long it will last,” Evans said. “Improving the lifetime of energy storage devices will reduce material requirements and lower the costs of implementing such technologies.”

The proposed research seeks to advance the fundamental physical understanding of dry, ionic polymers in the bulk and at electrified interfaces.

“Outside of energy storage, our studies will provide fundamental insights regarding charged polymer physics which is crucial to designing flexible electronics, soft robots, and self-healing materials,” Evans continued. “One of the unique aspects of this work is our ability to probe polymers at the nanoscale with fluorescence spectroscopy. This will allow us to see how the macroscopic performance of a battery is related to the nanoscale, interfacial behavior.” 

In addition to this exciting research, the project will contribute to education of students in forefront scientific and technological areas. Outreach activities include a day camp and weekend engineering fair with underrepresented demographics starting at a young age (elementary to middle school). A recurring, off-campus event will host talks open to the public to highlight cutting edge materials research. 

For more information on this CAREER award, visit: