Date of Award

Winter 1-2017

Embargo Period


Degree Type

Dissertation (CMU Access Only)

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Materials Science and Engineering


Newell Washburn


The broader technical objective of this work is to develop a strategy for using the biopolymer lignin in a wide variety of surfactant applications through polymer grafting. These applications include emulsion stabilizers, dispersants and foaming agents. The scientific objective of the research performed within this thesis is to understand the effect of molecular architecture and polymer grafting on the interfacial activity at the air-liquid, liquid-liquid and solid-liquid interface. Research has focused on designing of these lignopolymers with controlled architecture using polyethylene glycol, poly(acrylic acid) and polyacrylamide grafts. The interfacial activity for all polymer grafts has been tested at all three interfaces using a broad range of techniques specific to the interface. Results have shown that the hydrophobicity of the lignin core is responsible for enhanced interfacial activity at the air-liquid and liquid-liquid interface. Conversely, improved hydrophilicity and “electrosteric” interactions are required for higher interfacial activity of the lignin at the liquid-solid interface. The high interfacial activity of the polymer-grafted lignin observed in the air-liquid and liquid-liquid interfaces not only resulted in viscosity reduction but also strength enhancement at the liquid-solid interface. The broader implication of this study is to be able to predict what chemical functionalities need to be adjusted to get the desired viscosity reduction.