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Jeff Brinker elected to the National Academy of Engineering

Election to the National Academy of Engineering is one of the highest professional distinctions that can be accorded an engineer. Jeff Brinker Academy membership honors those who have made "important contributions to engineering theory and practice" and those who have demonstrated "unusual accomplishment in the pioneering of new and developing fields of technology." 
For outstanding contributions to the science of sol-gel processing, and for the invention of porous materials with controlled structure, C. Jeffrey Brinker, senior scientist, inorganic materials chemistry division, Sandia National Laboratories, Albuquerque, N.M. has been elected February 15, 2002 member of the USA National Academy of Engineering.

Brief Description of Research

Jeff Brinker joined Sandia National Laboratories as a Member of the Technical Staff in 1979 and initiated a program in the preparation of glasses and ceramics from molecular precursors, so called sol-gel processing. 
Initial efforts addressed the processing of refractory glasses like fused silica at low temperatures - less than half that of conventional melt-processing. He then focused on the preparation of porous materials useful for a wide range of applications including antireflective coatings, sensors, inertial confinement fusion targets, lasers, radioluminescent lights, and thermal and acoustic insulation. 
By exploiting the scaling relationships for mass and size of fractal objects, he devised a fractal engineering approach to tailor the porosity and pore size of these materials. He also used the extremely high surface area of silica gels as a convenient means to determine the structure of the amorphous silica surface and elucidate its surface chemistry and radiation behavior. This early work culminated in the publication of Sol-Gel Science in 1990, a book which remains the classic reference in the rapidly growing field. 
Dr. Brinker was promoted to Distinguished Member of the Technical Staff at SNL and appointed Distinguished National Laboratory Professor of Chemistry and Chemical Engineering at the University of New Mexico in 1991. He now holds the position of Senior Scientist at SNL and is the Co-Director of the Center for Micro-Engineered Materials at UNM. 
During the last five years, Dr. Brinker had made several significant contributions to the fields of porous and composite materials. Through the use of silane coupling chemistry, he devised a simple, inexpensive means to prepare aerogels at room temperature and pressure. Aerogels are the world's lightest solids and can have porosity levels as high as 99%. Applications for these so-called 21st century materials range from Cerenkov detectors and low dielectric constant (low-k) coatings to thermal management, an application that received considerable attention in NASA's recent Pathfinder Mission. By avoiding expensive and often dangerous supercritical processing conditions, Brinker and co-workers abolished the 60 year-old barrier to commercial aerogel production and enabled the first preparation of aerogels as thin films by dip- or spin-coating. Dr. Brinker received an R&D 100 award and a Lockheed-Martin NOVA award in 1996 for this breakthrough development in aerogel chemistry.

Dr. Brinker developed a variety of templating strategies employing ligands, molecules, and supramolecular assemblies to precisely control the pore size of films. The key to this approach is the concept of evaporation-induced self-assembly, EISA. Starting with a homogeneous solution of silicic acid, alcohol, water, and surfactant (detergent) molecules, evaporation during dip- or spin-coating enriches the depositing film in silica and surfactant, inducing the continuous self-assembly of silica/surfactant liquid crystalline mesophases. By controlling the solvent evaporation rate, the precise 3-dimensional nanostructure of the film can be tailored into a variety of different pore assemblages. Subsequent removal of the surfactant templates creates a silica fossil of the liquid crystalline assembly. The precise periodic porosity of these films has enabled the development of inorganic membranes with the best reported combination of selectivity and flux for certain difficult gas separation applications. In addition, the small pores, narrow pore size distribution, and fully connected framework architecture has made these films strong competitors in the race for the optimum low-k film for next-generation microelectronics. These materials are also ideal as integratable adsorbents and chemical concentrators for use in emerging new sensor applications such as Sandia's Chem Lab on a Chip.

Dr. Brinker extended the EISA concept to the formation of organic-inorganic nanocomposites that mimicked the hard/soft laminated construction of natural materials like sea shells (nacre), which due to their hardness, toughness and strength have been heralded as a holy grail of materials design and construction. In a process akin to washing dishes, micelles are used to organize both organic precursors (monomers, crosslinkers, and initiators sequestered within the hydrophobic micellar interiors) and hydrophilic inorganic precursors (assembled around the hydrophilic micellar exteriors.) Evaporation organizes the micelles into liquid crystalline mesophases, silmultaneously positioning the organic and inorganic precursors into hundreds of alternating layers in a single step. Thermal of photoinitiated organic polymerization combined with thermal or catalytically promoted inorganic polymerization resulted in highly ordered layered organic/inorganic nanocomposites with covalently bonded interfaces. This simple evaporation induced route can be considered a general, efficient means on nanocomposite assembly.

By performing EISA within aerosol droplets, Dr. Brinker extended the above concepts to the preparation of nanoparticles with precise porous or composite architectures. Since the starting point for this process is a solution of colloidal suspension, additives introduced into the solution are inevitably incorporated within the self-assembled, periodic mesophase, enabling "ship-in-a-bottle" constructions. This approach has significant implications in a diverse range of technologies like drug delivery, cosmetics, catalysis, chromatography, custom pigments in addition to providing a method for making selectively activated bio-materials for national security applications. Dr. Brinker has been recognized nationally and internationally for his seminal work. In addition to the NOVA and R&D 100 Awards, Dr. Brinker received the American Chemical Society's Raplh K. Iler Award in the Chemistry of Colloidal Materials, and five Department of Energy Basic Energy Sciences Awards. He is also a Fellow of the American Ceramic Society, an associate editoral board of four other journals: Materials Technology, Journal of Sol-Gel Science & Technology, Journal of Porous Materials, and Current Opinion in Solid-State and Material Science. Dr. Brinker was the originator and co-founder of the Materials Research Society Symposium on Better Ceramics Through Chemistry, which has been the most highly attended symposium in the history of the MRS, running every two years since 1984. Dr. Brinker has also been the faculty advisor to numerous Ph.D. students at the University of New Mexico through his joint appointment as a Distinguished National Laboratory Professor.

Contact :

Advanced Material Laboratory
1001 University Blvd. SE, Suite 100
Albuquerque, NM 87106, USA 
Phone: (505) 272 7627
Fax : (505) 272 7304
Email: cjbrink@sandia.gov

Web site: http://www.unm.edu/~solgel/

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