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Louis A. Madsen

Associate Professor

Physical, Polymer, and Materials Chemistry

Office: 1109 Hahn Hall South
Madsen Labs:  1009/1011 Hahn Hall South
Phone: 540-231-1270 

BA Grinnell College (Iowa), 1994, 
PhD California Institute of Technology NSF & Dow Fellowships, 2002 
Postoctoral Associate, University of North Carolina, 2002-2006
Visiting Scientist, Victoria University, Wellington, New Zealand, 2005 

Assistant Professor of Chemistry, Virginia Tech, 2006-present

Honors and Awards:
NSF CAREER Award, 2008

Our perceptions of “soft” materials (e.g., polymers or liquid crystals) rely mostly on bulk macroscopic properties and on observations made after synthesis and processing are complete.  However, to best design soft materials we must gain insights into their structure and dynamics on length scales ranging from molecular to micron-scale, as all these details govern macroscopic behavior.  We use “multi-modal” nuclear magnetic resonance (NMR) to investigate and quantify molecular motion, structure, dynamics, and morphology.  Thus, we hope to span the molecular and macroscopic worlds, both to give a deeper picture of soft material behavior and to inform synthesis and processing efforts.

Our diverse research group combines perspectives from Physical, Polymer, and Analytical Chemistry.  We make detailed measurements, develop physical and chemical models, and design and build custom instrumentation.


Specific interests in our group include:

  • Investigating the roles of orientational order and transport in the operation of polymers for fuel cells, reverse-osmosis, batteries, and mechanical actuators.
  • Correlation of bulk polymer deformation (rheology) with molecular and micron-scale details via “rheo-NMR.”
  • Combining an array of NMR and other techniques (SAXS, microscopy, modeling) to gain overall perspectives, especially the use of gradient NMR methods such as microimaging, diffusometry, and electrophoretic NMR, and 2H NMR spectroscopy to measure orientational order.
  • Exploring pathways to increasing NMR sensitivity, as well as applicability to new samples and in situ environments.
  1. “Switchable bistable ordering and real-time alignment dynamics in wormlike micelles.”  K.G. Wilmsmeyer, X. Zhang, and L.A L. A. Madsen.  Soft Matter 8, 57-60 (2012).    
  2. “Linear coupling of alignment with transport in a polymer electrolyte membrane.” J. Li, J.K. Park, R.B. Moore, and L.A. Madsen.  Nature Materials 10, 507-511 (2011).  
  3. “Cation/Anion Associations in Ionic Liquids Modulated by Hydration and Ionic Medium.”  J. Hou, Z. Zhang, and L.A. Madsen.  Journal of Physical Chemistry B 115, 4576-4582 (2011).
  4. “Anisotropic Diffusion and Morphology in Perfluorosulfonate Ionomers Investigated by NMR.”  J. Li, K.G. Wilmsmeyer, and L.A. Madsen.  Macromolecules 42, 255-262 (2009).
  5. “Polymer Beacons for Luminescence and Magnetic Resonance Imaging of DNA Delivery.”  J.M. Bryson, K.M. Fichter, W.-J. Chu, J.-H. Lee, J. Li, L.A. Madsen, and T.M. Reineke.  Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences 106, 16913-16918 (2009).
  6. “The Role of Water in Transport of Ionic Liquids in Polymeric Artificial Muscle Actuators.”  J. Li, K. G. Wilmsmeyer, J. Hou, and L.A. Madsen.  Soft Matter 5, 2596-2602 (2009).
  7. “Thermotropic Biaxial Nematic Liquid Crystals.”  L.A. Madsen, T.J. Dingemans, M. Nakata, and E.T. Samulski. Physical Review Letters 92, 145505 (2004).  

    Lou Madsen