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Undergraduate Engineering Student Presents at Polymer Processing Society Conference in Lyon, France

UM College of Engineering Senior Alexandra Damley-Strnad’s proposal was accepted, and she presented at the 32nd International Conference of the Polymer Processing Society. The aerospace engineering student discussed the results of her research into how the poly (styrene-isobutylene-styrene) (SIBS) block copolymer is affected by lipid absorption – specifically, how much its weight increased and its tensile strength decreased. SIBS is a highly biocompatible thermoelastic polymer which organisms do not react to as a foreign body. This research will help gauge the amount of time it takes the SIBS coating for commercially used drug-eluting stents to degrade on the in-vivo-implanted devices, and how such devices will react to the lipids in human and animal bodies.

Damley-Strnad conducted this research with Brigitte Morales, a College of Engineering (CoE) Ph.D. student; Mauro Fittipaldi, CoE graduate research assistant and Ph.D. student; and Landon Grace, a former assistant professor in the CoE’s Department of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering. They immersed SIBS specimens in liquids designed to simulate lipid uptake in the body. After only 96 hours of immersion in palm oil at body temperature (37 °C), the specimens’ weight increased by 6% and their ultimate tensile strength decreased by approximately 30%. After the same period of immersion in castor oil, specimens’ weight increased by 0.3%, and ultimate tensile strength decreased by approximately 10%.

Damley-Strnad explained that the results will restrict the use of SIBS in certain critical components of bio-implanted devices, because of the high concentration of lipids in vivo. The results also highlight the need to improve lipid resistance in this polymer in order to fully exploit its biocompatibility.

The 32nd International Conference of the Polymer Processing Society took place July 25–29 in Lyon, France. Invited presenters shared cutting-edge research results and new developments in the field of polymer engineering and science. Damley-Strnad’s presentation was titled “The Effect of Lipid Absorption on the Mechanical Properties of Poly(Styrene-Block-Isobutylene-Block-Styrene) for Use in Biomedical Applications.” The Polymer Processing Society fosters scientific understanding and technical innovation in polymer processing, bringing together scientists and engineers in the field.

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