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G. Kane Jennings

Professor of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering

Overview:

My research efforts are aimed at the molecular design and fabrication of organic thin films to modify surfaces for a host of applications.

Membranes and Coatings. We have developed a method termed spin coating ring-opening metathesis polymerization (scROMP) to combine the synthesis and deposition of polymer films and coatings into one rapid process. With scROMP, we can synthesize up to 20 different polymer films in an hour, using less than half a mL of solvent for each film. The scROMP method is compatible with porous supports to enable the rapid fabrication of thin film composite membranes for accelerated polymer materials discovery.  

Smart Surfaces. We are designing monolayer and polymer thin films that alter their surface composition upon exposure to a different medium (e.g. air vs water, solvent vs water). The films contain multifunctional groups that can reorient to minimize interfacial free energy upon exposure to a different environment. Such films have applications in adaptive adhesion and fouling resistance.

Biohybrid Solar Energy Conversion. Photosystem I (PSI) is a nanoscale protein complex that efficiently converts sunlight to chemical energy to drive photosynthesis in green plants. We are investigating the fundamental issues that affect photo-assisted electron transfer properties of PSI, deposited as thin “biohybrid” films on electrode surfaces.  Our recent innovations in this area include interfacing PSI with conducting polymers for more efficient electron transfer, instrumenting the PSI protein active site with conducting polymers, and modeling the photoelectrochemical reactions of a PSI multilayer film with redox species.

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Awards:

-VINSE Distinguished Service Award, 2022
-VINSE High Impact Research Paper Award, 2015
-Arthur K. Doolittle Award (PMSE Division of ACS), 2010
-Chancellor’s Research Award, 2006
-Ellen Gregg-Ingalls Award for Excellence in Classroom Teaching, 2005
-Award for Excellence in Teaching from Vanderbilt School of Engineering, 2002
-Hall of Fame Inductee-Cherokee County High School, Centre, AL, 2001
-Department of Energy-Electrochemical Society Summer Fellowship, 1997
-Barry M. Goldwater Scholar, 1992