Issue Date: January 29, 2007
ACS Award in Applied Polymer Science
Sponsored by Eastman Chemical
Harry R. Allcock chose to pursue a career in chemistry because he believed chemists could make contributions to many fields. His sustained work with hybrid macromolecules, such as phosphazenes, illustrates this philosophy.
Allcock is an Evan Pugh Professor of Chemistry at Pennsylvania State University. In addition, he holds courtesy positions in the departments of chemical engineering and bioengineering.
Shortly after arriving at Penn State in 1966, Allcock synthesized the first polyphosphazenes. The defining characteristic of this broad class of polymers is a backbone of alternating nitrogen and phosphorus atoms, the latter with organic or organometallic side groups. Allcock and his colleagues synthesized and studied more than 700 examples. Most of these polymers are created in a two-step process. More than 250 side groups can be linked to the backbone.
The resulting polymers have many uses. Examples include optical and photonic applications, energy storage and generation devices, drug delivery and tissue regeneration, and superhydrophobic surfaces.
"The range of properties among polyphosphazenes exceeds those of almost all other known polymer systems," says Albert W. Castleman Jr., chair of Penn State's chemistry department. "Allcock is one of the few scientists to have founded and been the principal developer of a major new area of science and technology."
What led Allcock to polyphosphazenes? He completed his Ph.D. work in small-molecule organosilicon chemistry, and he has been interested in hybrid materials ever since. He says he suspected that substituting phosphorus into the skeleton of polymers would have even more potential than silicon in terms of reactions and properties.
Cross-disciplinary research is valuable and has provided some of the most important developments in chemistry, according to Allcock. "That idea really has been the basis behind everything that my group does these days," he adds. His long-term collaborations include researchers at medical schools.
For his contributions to chemistry, Allcock received the ACS National Award for Polymer Science in 1984, the ACS National Award in Materials Chemistry in 1992, and the Polymer Division's Herman F. Mark Award in 1994. He was a Guggenheim Fellow in 1986 and 1987. Additionally, he has held a number of endowed lectureships and served on various international advisory and editorial boards.
Born in Loughborough, England, Allcock earned a B.Sc. in chemistry and a Ph.D. in organometallic and physical organic chemistry, both from the University of London. He held postdoctoral fellowships at Purdue University in Indiana and the National Research Council in Canada. After five years working as a research scientist at American Cyanamid in Connecticut, he joined the chemistry faculty at Penn State.
The award address will be presented before the Division of Polymeric Materials: Science & Engineering.
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