James Economy
James Economy
Professor Emeritus

Professional Highlights

  • Professor Economy received his BS from Wayne State University and PhD from the University of Maryland. From 1960-75 he was manager of materials science and chemistry of the Research Branch in the Research and Development Division of the Carborundum Co. During this period, he was responsible for the development of a number of advanced polymers and ceramics, eight of which are commercially available today. From 1975-89 he was manager of the polymer Science and Technology Department in the Research Division of IBM, where his group achieved worldwide prominence both scientifically and technologically. Since 1981 this group transferred, on average, two new materials per year to the operating divisions. In 1989, he joined UIUC as Professor and Head of the Department of Materials Science and Engineering. He has received the AIC Chemical Pioneer Award (1987), ACS Phillips Medal (1985), Southern Research Burn Institute Award (1976), Schoelkopf Medal (1972) and 14 IR 100 Awards for Outstanding Technical Developments in American Industry. He was recently selected as the 1998 winner of the Herman F. Mark Award of the ACS Division of Polymer Chemistry, Inc. Economy made a presentation and received the award at the biennial meeting of the division in November 1998 in Williamsburg, VA. He is a member of the National Academy of Engineering and the MPS-NSF Advisory Board and is President of IUPAC's Macromolecular Division (1994-98). In January 2001, he received the Paul J. Flory Polymer Research Prize for extraordinary contribution to polymer science and engineering. He is a Fellow of PMSE (2001) and a Fellow of the National Academy of Arts and Sciences (2003) and the American Chemical Society (2012).

Research Statement

Professor Economy currently pursues three areas of research, namely

  • Synthesis of High Performance Aromatic Copolyesters,
  • Design of New Types of Adsorption Systems,
  • Development of Novel Ceramic and Metal Matrix Composites.

The work on the aromatic copolyesters had its origins in Professor Economy's discovery and commercial development some years ago of the liquid crystalline aromatic copolyesters. ($100 million industry today). In the last several years Economy's group has moved into completely new directions based on this earlier work including

  • design of a completely new family of very high temperature thermosetting, resins,
  • fundamental studies on the role of interchain transesterification reactions (ITR) with respect to randomizing or ordering the sequence distribution in these copolyesters and
  • further tailoring of these new materials for use as ultra low dielectric constant substrates, matrices for advanced composites, high performance adhesive bonds, and photoimageable films.

Related activities currently underway include a new approach to recycling the crosslinked polyester (using ITR), solid state processing of the cured polyesters and generating nanofoamed structures stable to over 400=B0C.

The program on new types of adsorption systems had its origin in an earlier discovery by Professor Economy of activated carbon fibers (currently $10 million sales). Starting in 1990 he initiated a program to better understand the fundamental mechanisms governing adsorption and desorption of contaminants by high surface area carbons and to reduce the cost of the fibers about $100/lb. Major progress has been made in characterizing the nature of the micropores using STM and tailoring the chemistry of the micropore surface to selectively adsorb trace contaminants. As a result, his group is very close to establishing a comprehensive understanding of the mechanism of adsorption as well as a capability to remove contaminants down to the low ppb range. His group has also developed a new kind of activated carbon fiber which costs about $1/lb, and has 15 X the wear resistance of the current material. His group is currently exploring commercial development of the new material through a novel concept of establishing a "virtual business." Areas for research currently include design of these new fibers for water purification, air clean-up, protective clothing (and masks), catalyst supports and continued elucidation of the fundamental mechanisms of adsorption and desorption. Completely new types of systems for either adsorption or separation of contaminants are now being developed.

In the area of "ceramic and metal matrix composites (MMC's)" Professor Economy has two programs underway. In the case of ceramics, he and his group have recently shown that they can prepare carbon fiber/BN matrix composites starting with an easily processible borazine oligomer. One of the unique features of the borazine oligomer is its tendency to form a liquid crystalline phase (this is to our knowledge the first inorganic liquid crystalline polymer reported). This feature greatly reduces the potential for stress at interfaces due to CTE mismatches, because of the unique capability of LCP's to organize at interfaces. With this easily processed oligomer Economy's group is exploring a wide range of areas including low dielectric constant substrates for microelectronic devices, adhesives for metal-ceramics and a wide range of carbon and inorganic fiber composites. Of particular interest is the potential use of the C/BN as an aircraft brake, since it shows 20% of the rate of wear observed with commercially used C/C.

In the case of MMC's Economy's group has been exploring use of ultra high strength-modulus, single crystal flakes of AlB2 as a reinforcement for aluminum. This work has progressed to the point where high aspect ratio flakes can be formed in a molten aluminum alloy at a concentration of 5-10% flakes. The knowledge to generate very high aspect ratio flakes > 100/1 has now been developed. Work to concentrate the flakes to higher volume loadings is underway to further maximize the mechanical properties of this novel family of composites.

Selected Articles in Journals

  • Huang, Y., J. J. McCromick, J. Economy, “Adhesion of an aromatic thermosetting copolyester with copper foils,” Polymers for Advanced Technologies, 16(1), 1-5 (2005).
  • Seghi, S., B. Fabio, J. Economy, “Carbon/carbon-boron nitride composites with improved wear resistance compared to carbon/carbon,” Carbon, 42(15), 3043-3048 (2004).
  • Liu, C., and J. Economy, “Surfactant-directed synthesis of nanporous thiol-functionalized organic-inorganic hybrid fibers for highly selective removal of mercury,” Polymeric Materials: Sci. and Eng., 91, 1037-1038 (2004).
  • Huang, Y., and J. Economy, “High-temperature transition in thin films of molten UHMWPE,” Polymeric Materials: Sci. and Eng., 91, 620-621 (2004).
  • Xiao, W. C. Fisher, B. Fabio, and J. Economy, “Design of sterically hindered polyesters as lubricants for hard disk drives,” Polymeric Materials: Sci. and Eng., 91, 816-817 (2004).
  • Wang, J., Z. Yue, and J. Economy, “Proton-conducting composite membrane derived from sulfonated poly (ether ether ketone) and polyacrylonitrile,” Preprints of Symposia. American Chemical Society, Division of Fuel Chemistry, 49(2), 612-613 (2004).
  • Liu, C. J. Wang, and J. Economy, “Template synthesis of a novel mesoporous cross-linked sulfonated poly(ether ether ketone) membrane,” Polymer Preprints (American Chemical Society, Division of Polymer Chemistry) 45(2), 626-627 (2004).
  • Yue, Z., C. L. Mangun, and J. Economy, “Characterization of surface chemistry and pore structure of H3PO4-activated poly(vinyl alcohol) coated fiberglass,” Carbon, 42(10), 1973-1982 (2004).
  • Liu, C., J. Wang, and J. Economy, “Synthesis and characterization of a novel, mesoporous organosilica with additional yclodextrin-based micropores,” Macromolecular Rapid Communications, 25(8), 863-866 (2004).
  • Xu, K. and J. Economy, “Hyperbranched Thermosetting Poly(imide-ester): Synthesis and Properties,” Macromolecules, 37(11), 4146-4155 (2004).
  • Liu, C., L. Fu, and J. Economy, “Synthesis and characterization of a novel alyx[4]arene-based periodic mesoporous organosilica,” Macromolecular Rapid Communications, 25(7), 804-807 (2004).
  • Xu, K., J. C. Selby, M. A. Shannon, and J. Economy. “Adhesion mechanisms in the solid state bonding technique using sub-micrometer aromatic thermosetting copolyester adhesive,” J. of Applied Polymer Science, 92(6), 3843-3856 (2004).
  • Liu C., and J. Economy, “Advanced mesoporous organosilica material containing microporous cyclodextrins for the removal of humic acid from water,” Journal of Chromatography A, 1036(2), 113-118 (2004).
  • Liu, C., J. Wang and J. Economy, “Synthesis and characterization of a novel, mesoporous organosilica with additional yclodextrin-based micropores,” Macromolecular Rapid Comm., 25, 863-866 (2004).
  • Liu, C., L. Fu, and J. Economy, “A simple, template-free route for the synthesis of mesoporous titanium dioxide materials,” J of Materials Chemistry 14(7), 1187-1189 (2004).
  • Liu, C., N. Naismith, Y. Huang, J. Economy, “Synthesis and characterization of novel hyperbranched poly(imide silsesquioxane) membranes,” J. Polymer Sci., Part A: Polymer Chemistry, 41(23), 3736-3743 (2003).
  • Dominguez, L., J. Economy, K. Benak, C. L. Mangun, “Anion exchange fibers for arsenate removal derived from a vinylbenzyl chloride precursor,” Polymers for Advanced Tech., 14(9), 632-637. (2003).
  • Liu, C., N. Naismith, L. Fu, and J. Economy, “Ordered mesoporous organic-inorganic hybrid materials containing microporous functional alyx[8]arene amides”. Chemical Comm., (19), 2472-2473. (2003).
  • Huang, Y. and J. Economy, “Chemical interactions at the interface of an aromatic thermosetting copolyester (ATSP) and Zn-coated Cu foil,” Polymeric Materials Science and Engineering, 89 545-546 (2003).
  • Liu, C. and J. Economy, “Novel membranes prepared from the reaction of hyperbranched polyimide and epoxy silane,” Polymeric Materials Science and Engineering, 89 444-445. (2003).
  • Liu, C., Y. Huang, N. Naismith, J. Economy, and J. Talbott, “Novel Polymeric Chelating Fibers for Selective Removal of Mercury and Cesium from Water,” Environmental Science and Tech., 37(18), 4261-4268 (2003).
  • Liu, C., N. Naismith, L. Fu, and J. Economy, “Novel nanoporous hybrid organic-inorganic silica containing iminodiethanol chelating groups inside the channel pores,” Chemical Comm. (15), 1920-1921 (2003).
  • Yue, Z., J. Economy, and C. L. Mangun, “Preparation of fibrous porous materials by chemical activation. 2. H3PO4 activation of polymer coated fibers,” Carbon 41(9), 1809-1817 (2003).
  • Kim, T. Y., I. J. Yeon, I. H. Baek, K. C. Nam, and J. Economy, “Manufacture of activated carbon fiber assemblies filter using the glass fibers and their adsorption performance,” Kongop Hwahak, 14(1), 61-68. (2003).
  • Liu C., N. Naismith, L. Fu, and J. Economy, “Ordered mesoporous organic-inorganic hybrid materials containing microporous functional alyx[8]arene amides,” Chemical Comm. (19), 2472-3 (2003).

Research Honors

  • Fellow, American Chemical Society (2012)
  • Founder Professor of Engineering, UIUC (2006)
  • Fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences (2003)
  • Paul J. Flory Award for Polymer Research (2001)
  • Fellow of Polymer Materials & Science Division, ACS (2001)
  • Canadian Utilities Distinguished Lecture, U. of Alberta (1999)
  • Herman Mark ACS Award (1998)
  • President of IUPAC's Macromolecular Division (4 year term) (1994)
  • Turner Alfrey Visiting Professorship (1992)
  • Fellow of AAAS (1991)
  • AIC Chemical Pioneer Award (1987)
  • Member of National Academy of Engineering (1987)
  • Mary Kapp Memorial Lecture, Virginia Commonwealth U. (1986)
  • Chairman: Polymer Division of the ACS (1985)
  • Phillips Medal, ACS Award in Applied Polymer Science (1985)
  • Chairman: 12th Biennial Polymer Symposium (1984)
  • Rauscher Memorial Lecture, RPl (1981)
  • Chairman: Polymer Gordon Conference (1980)
  • Selected as Part of a Distinguished Group of 12 Polymer Scientists to Visit the PRC (1979)
  • Southern Research Burn Institute Award (1976)
  • Chairman Elect: ACS Western New York Section (1975)
  • Cited in Annual Report of the Carborundum Co. for Outstanding Contributions to the Company 1973 (1973)
  • Schoelkopf Medal, ACS Western New York Section (1972)

Public Service Honors

  • I R-100 Awards, for outstanding technical development in American Industry presented to the Carborundum Co. and resulting from Dr. Economy's research.

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