Graduation Year


Document Type




Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.)

Degree Granting Department


Major Professor

Julie P. Harmon, Ph.D.

Committee Member

Jianfeng Cai, Ph.D.

Committee Member

Nathan Crane, Ph.D.

Committee Member

Shengqian Ma, Ph.D.


Differential Scanning Calorimetry, Dynamic Mechanical Analysis, Rheology, Spectroscopy, Three-Dimensional Printing


In this work differential scanning calorimetry, dynamic mechanical analysis, Fourier-Transformed Infrared Spectroscopy [FT-IR] and polarized light microscopy will be employed to characterize polymeric systems. The first chapter broadly covers polymer synthesis and important characterization methods.

In the second chapter, a polyamide (PA12) will be sintered via a novel additive manufacturing (AM) technology developed here at USF termed LAPS (Large Area Projection Sintering). LAPS uses extended sintering timespans to ensure complete melting and densification of the polymer powder over the entire two-dimensional area of the part’s footprint. Further, it allows for the printed layer to crystallize and shrink in its entirety as the temperature falls below the crystallization temperature prior to the next layer being added. The printed parts (termed coupons) will be assayed by DSC and polarized light microscopy to determine sintering efficacy. Additionally, the parts will be compared to coupons printed with conventional methods to show that the USF AM technology shows superior elongation at break (EaB), with comparable ultimate tensile strength (UTS) and Young’s Modulus to laser sintered coupons. This is notable as conventional AM methods produce parts which usually compromise between EaB and modulus. The EaB of LAPS-printed parts is comparable to injection molding (IM) grade PA12, which is remarkable as IM grade PA12 powder normally has higher molecular weight and limited crystallinity. The reduced crystallinity of IM grade PA12 parts is thought to be due to the high shear rates during injection and fast cooling rates post-fabrication. Further, the USF LAPS parts show minimal or no detectable porosity. Porosity is an artifact of the sintering process which conventional techniques like laser sintering (LS) have little ability to mitigate, as higher energy wattages simply burn and degrade the polymer surface with insufficient time available for heat transfer and bulk melt flow. Porosity is documented as one of the leading causes of part failure and decreased mechanical properties in the literature, and as such the USF AM technology is in the process of being patented as of March, 2018.

Chapters three through six will explore a phenomenon first noticed by clinicians at the James A. Haley Veterans Hospital. They observed that starch-thickened drinks for patients suffering from dysphagia became dangerously thinned down upon addition of the osmotic drug polyethylene glycol (PEG) 3350, marketed as Miralax®. Starch-based hydrocolloids are common thickeners used for patients with dysphagia, and so any incompatibility with such a ubiquitous drug as PEG 3350 poses an immediate danger. Patients with the disorder can suffer increased rates of aspiration-related pneumonia, incurring up to nearly a 60% fatality rate within a year. Chances for aspiration greatly increase for food items which are too inviscid to safely swallow. Rheology and FT-IR spectroscopy will be used to show that the breakdown of the starch network in aqueous solution is dependent upon the molecular weight of PEG. As the molecular weight of PEG is reduced to that of a small molecule (~300MW) from its large drug form (3350MW), the structure stabilizes and can resist shearing forces in a steady shear rheological experiment. Spectroscopy will show that PEG molecular weight also influences syneresis and the crystallinity of the starch hydrocolloid solutions.

It is postulated that the molecular weight of PEG influences its miscibility in starch solutions, and its ability to interrupt the hydrogen bonding and entanglements which maintain the elastic framework which allow starch thickeners to impart viscosity and resist shearing forces. When this framework collapses, absorbed water is expelled as evidenced as a biphasic separation where water collects on top of the starch suspension. This was the phenomenon observed by the clinicians at the Veterans’ Hospital.