Hydrolysis of Polyamide-12 in Water and Methanol

Hi everybody! My name is Natalie. I’m a rising junior Chemistry major at the college with a minor in mathematics (and an interest in French language). When I’m not doing research in Dr. Kranbuehl’s lab or otherwise curled up studying in the ISC, I am fencing foil with the William & Mary Fencing Club, visiting the Science Club at Matthew Whaley Elementary with KITES (Kids Interested in Technology, Engineering and Sciences), or breaking out my vinyl record collection.

My research this summer centers around polymers, specifically Polyamide-12. I’ve noticed, after two years in Dr. Kranbuehl’s lab, that when I try to answer a common question from friends, “What is a polymer, exactly though?” the answer,  “A bunch of monomers” is greeted only by sarcastic looks and head shaking. I hope to post a better explanation of what exactly my research seeks to do in the future, complete with all the great metaphors and storytelling imagery I’ve heard to explain polymers since I began studying them. For now though, my Abstract is below.

“For future engineering, building, innovation, and infrastructure, polymers will become increasingly important as a strong and durable material in all industries. Polyamides, otherwise known as nylons, are of particular interest. In the presence of water and dissolved small organic molecules, polyamides under go hydrolysis – the breaking of amide bonds caused by water. Due to hydrolysis, polymers degrade from a very high average molecular weight to a lower average molecular weight. As a result of this low average molecular weight and resulting shorter molecule chains, the polymer becomes brittle, inflexible and significantly more prone to mechanical failure. The focus of research is specifically on polyamides used in oil pipe liners in offshore drilling apparatus, when these pipelines need to be replaced, and the possibility of new or better materials to be used in these pipes. The current polymer of interest for my research in these pipelines is polyamide-12 (PA-12). Previous research in Dr. David Kranbuehl’s laboratory has demonstrated varying rates and degrees of hydrolysis of PA-11 in water, acidic, and methanol environments. This lays the groundwork for research on the hydrolysis of Polyamide-12 (PA-12), a potential alternative or successor of PA-11. Research will focus on the role of PA-12’s differing crystalline structure and morphology in the hydrolytic aging process in water and methanol aging environments.”

Looking forward to this summer,

Natalie Hudson-Smith