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Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry

Students, Researchers and Emeritus

Brian C. Benicewicz

Title: USC Educational Foundation Distinguished Professor Emeritus / Polymer
Materials / Nano / Organic
Department: Chemistry and Biochemistry
Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry
Phone: 803-777-0778
Fax: 803-777-8100
Office: HZN1 232

CV [pdf]
All Publications
Brian Benicewicz Group Website 
Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry

Dr. Brian Benicewicz


B.S., 1976, Florida Institute of Technology
Ph.D. 1980, University of Connecticut

Honors and Awards

Fellow of the Polymer Materials Science and Engineering Division of the American Chemical Society, 2018; USC Educational Foundation Research Award for Science, Mathematics, and Engineering, 2018; Fellow of the Polymer Division of the American Chemical Society, 2016; ACS PMSE Cooperative Research Award in Polymer Science and Engineering, 2016; Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, 2011;  NASA Technology Program Award, 1998;  NASA Technology Achievement Award, 1997;  Los Alamos National Laboratory Distinguished Patent Award, 1997;  Los Alamos National Laboratory Excellence in Industrial Partnership Award, 1996.

Research Interests

Research Areas: Polymer-organic chemistry, new monomer and polymer synthesis, polymer nanocomposites, polymer membranes for fuel cells, electrically conducting polymers, liquid crystalline polymers, controlled radical polymerization.

The underlying theme for all of the work in our group is our ability to synthesize polymers by new methods with properties or combinations of properties not found in existing materials. We simply enjoy making new materials. However, our work extends beyond the synthesis and we characterize the properties of these new materials and test them in potential applications to establish structure-property relationships to further aid in the design of next generation polymers.

Polymer Nanocomposites:

We are developing controlled radical polymerization techniques to design the interfacial properties of polymer nanocomposites. We have developed a toolbox of methods to control the chemistry at the surface of nanoparticles with great precision and use "click" chemistry techniques to introduce functionalities at the surface of nanoparticles which could not survive the polymerization conditions or may interfere with the polymerization. Block copolymerization is also used to establish multilayers at the nanoparticle surface. Our work relies on the use of the controlled radical polymerization technique, RAFT, or reversible addition-fragmentation, chain transfer polymerization. The design of new RAFT agents, surface anchored RAFT agents, and new monomers have allowed us to prepare surface functionalized nanoparticles for many applications.

Fuel Cell Membranes:

We are investigating new polymers for high temperature fuel cell membranes. The polymer membrane is considered the "heart" of a polymer electrolyte membrane (PEM) fuel cell and represents a central challenge for the future of fuel cell devices. Polybenzimidazoles imbibed with phosphoric acid are being prepared and tested in fuel cells at temperatures up to 200°C. Our work over the last several years has been focused on a new process that allows high phosphoric acid levels while still maintaining the mechanical strength for these high loaded films. The conductivites and fuel cell performance have increased substantially and now exhibit values suitable for commercial applications.

We have also explored a great deal of new chemistry associated with the basic synthetic methods and new compositions to further improve the basic conductivity of the polymer membrane. The synthesis of new compositions continues with the belief that the polymer plays an important role in the conductivity. An extensive fuel cell test laboratory designed for high temperature membrane testing supports our work in the area. We have also extended this work to investigate electrochemical hydrogen pumping for hydrogen separation and purification application.

Selected Publications

Kumar, S.; Benicewicz, B.C.; Vaia, R.; Winey, K. 50th Anniversary Perspective: Are Polymer Nanocomposites Practical for Applications? Macromolecules 2017, 50, 714-731.

Khani, M.M.; Abbas, Z.M. Benicewicz, B.C. Well-Defined Polyisoprene-Grafted Silica Nanoparticles via the RAFT Process.
J. Polym. Sci., Part A: Poly. Chem.
2017, 55(9), 1493-1501.

Bell, M.; Krentz, T.; Nelson, J.K.; Schadler, L.S.; Wu, K.; Breneman, C.; Zhao, S.; Hillborg, H.; Benicewicz, B. Investigation of Dielectric Breakdown in Silica-Epoxy Nanocomposites Using Designed Interfaces. J. Colloid and Interface Science 2017, 495,

Zheng, Y.; Huang, Y.; Abbas, Z.; Benicewicz, B.C. One-pot Synthesis of Inorganic Nanoparticle Vesicles via Surface-Initiated Polymerization-Induced Self-Assembly. Polymer Chemistry 2017, 8, 370-374.

Schoenberger, F.; Qian, G.; Benicewicz, B.C. Polybenzimidazole Based Block Copolymers: From Monomers to Membrane Electrode Assemblies for High Temperature Polymer Electrolyte Membrane Fuel Cells. J. Polym. Sci., Part A: Poly. Chem. 2017, 55(11), 1831-1843.

Challenge the conventional. Create the exceptional. No Limits.