Year of Award


Document Type

Dissertation - Campus Access Only

Degree Type

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Degree Name

Materials Science

Other Degree Name/Area of Focus

Materials Science Program

Department or School/College

Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry

Committee Co-chair

Monica A. Serban, Tyler N. Smith

Commitee Members

Chris P. Palmer, Paul Gannon, Armando G. McDonald


Bio-based materials, D-glucaric acid, Hyaluronan, Silk fibroin


University of Montana


Natural, bio-based materials offer a sustainable and valuable foundation for the development of products for the twenty-first century and beyond. Nature has provided an abundance of renewable resources that are often biodegradable, biocompatible, and modifiable making them attractive building blocks for a variety of applications. This dissertation describes the studies conducted to evaluate the potential applications of three natural, bio-based building blocks: D-glucaric acid, hyaluronan, and silk fibroin.

The first building block explored, D-glucaric acid, is a 6-carbon aldaric acid produced through the oxidation of D-glucose. Highly functional, D-glucaric acid can be synthesized into a variety of materials. One material of interest are the polyhydroxypolyamides synthesized from the polycondensation reaction of D-glucaric acid and aliphatic diamines. These poly(glucaramides) show unique, hydrogel-forming abilities. Forming through the aggregation of nanoparticles, these hydrogels have shown the ability to gel in the presence of small molecules and modulate their release making them suitable for controlled release applications.

Hyaluronan is a high molecular weight glycosaminoglycan that has been utilized in many biomedical applications. Hyaluronan’s biocompatibility, biodegradability, and modifiable structure make it a desirable material for future research. Using carbodiimide coupling chemistry, derivatives of hyaluronan functionalized with an antiviral or antioxidants were synthesized. These derivatives were then explored for the potential of developing antiviral/antioxidant therapeutics for the prevention of hearing loss due to a viral infection.

The last natural, bio-based building block of interest in this study is silk fibroin. Silk fibroin is a high molecular weight polymeric protein that is primarily sourced from Bombyx mori silkworm cocoons. Silk fibroin’s biocompatibility, natural adhesive properties, and ability to be processed into numerous materials (gels, films, sponges, fibers, etc.) make it an attractive material for the production of substrate specific adhesives. The effects of physical parameters (i.e., concentration, temperature, pH, ionic strength) and protein structural changes on the adhesion of silk fibroin adhesives were investigated.

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