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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 

Associate 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 and new materials.

Specific interests in our group include:

  • Investigating the roles of orientational order and transport in the behaviors of polymers, with applications in batteries, fuel cells, water purification, mechanical actuators, and “theranostic” agents that combine drug delivery and MRI contrast.
  • Exploring local dynamics and molecular correlations in ionic liquids, liquid crystals, and other partially structured liquids. 
  • Using our fundamental understanding to create new materials (e.g., ionic liquid-polymer gels for battery electrolytes) and to enhance macroscopic properties such as conductivity or optical refraction.
  • Correlating bulk polymer or complex fluid deformation (rheology) with molecular and micron-scale details via “rheo-NMR.”
  • Developing and combining an array of NMR and other techniques (SAXS, microscopy, modeling) to gain deep perspectives on soft materials.  We focus on use of gradient NMR methods such as microimaging, diffusometry, and electrophoretic NMR to measure molecular motions and morphology, as well as 2H NMR to measure molecular alignment
  1. “Observation of Separate Cation and Anion Electrophoretic Mobilities in Pure Ionic Liquids”  Zhiyang Zhang and Louis A. Madsen.  Journal of Chemical Physics 140, 084204 (2014).
  2. “Cation and Anion Transport in a Dicationic Imidazolium-Based Plastic Crystal Ion Conductor”  Bryce E. Kidd, Mark D. Lingwood, Minjae Lee, Harry W. Gibson, and Louis A. Madsen.  Journal of Physical Chemistry B 118, 2176–2185 (2014).
  3. “Quantitation of Complexed versus Free Polymers in Interpolyelectrolyte Polyplex Formulations”  Xiaoling Wang, Sneha S. Kelkar, Amanda Hudson, Robert B. Moore, Theresa M. Reineke, and Louis A. Madsen.  ACS Macro Letters 2, 1038-1041 (2013).
  4. “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). 
  5. “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).
  6. “Anisotropic Diffusion and Morphology in Perfluorosulfonate Ionomers Investigated by NMR.”  J. Li, K. G. Wilmsmeyer, and L. A. Madsen.  Macromolecules 42, 255-262 (2009).
  7. “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).
  8. 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