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Laura Ingalls, first year doctoral student in the Green Chemistry Program, has her work cut out for herߞ;and the funding to do the job. Ingalls has won a three-year, $131,500 research fellowship grant from the National Science Foundation, under the program for promoting science in the community. The grant begins in June.
Ingalls joins a research group in green chemistry that is investigating environmentally benign photoresist materials to be used in electronics and other industries, using thymine copolymers. The new copolymers would replace the coating material used in making printed circuit boards. Most importantly, an enzyme from e coli can be used to make the polymers biodegradable and recyclable.
“Think about what happens to all the components in a printed circuit board at the end of its usable life,” says Ingalls. “What we’re developing is a material that can change condition. First we use ultraviolet light to make the polymer crosslinkߞ;it becomes water insoluble and is usable in electronics. At the end of its life, we break the bondߞ;it becomes water soluble and degradableߞ;using an enzyme.”
Ingalls is working on isolating an enzyme and inhibitor combinationߞ;a sort of trigger mechanismߞ;for controlled release to undo the crosslinking. She is also investigating other enzymes that are more robust and less temperature-sensitive.
Ingalls is a graduate of Stonehill College and lives in Brooklyn, Conn.