Milana Trifkovic obtained her Ph.D. from the Western University in London, Canada, specializing in real-time optimal control of crystallization of pharmaceuticals and polymer extrusion. Following her Ph.D. studies, she joined Chemical Engineering and Materials Science Department at the University of Minnesota as a Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council (NSERC) of Canada Postdoctoral Fellow (PDF). She is an Associate Professor in the Department of Chemical and Petroleum Engineering at the University of Calgary. Her current focus is in advanced materials design, operation and control of complex, non-linear engineering systems.  Her group seeks solutions to these problems through a combination of theoretical and experimental research that enable transforming promising lab concepts into concrete solutions to pressing problems in energy sector.


A few decades of intense research efforts have enabled implementation of polymer nanocomposites and polymer blend nanocomposites within numerous commercial applications. With the estimated annual growth rate of 25%, their application spectrum keeps on growing. However, controlling the dispersion state of nanoparticles in the polymer or polymer blend matrices is difficult to achieve due to the complex and little-understood interplay of particle compatibility, transport behavior, and theology. Controlling the dispersion state then is central to designing a platform for engineering nanocomposite structures for an application of interest. Recent results will be presented which establish that the effect of polymer-filler interactions at the molecular level dictates the extent of filler dispersion and Ph.D. bulk properties of the derived polymer nanocomposites (PNCs). However, contrary to the common belief, we show that agglomeration of conductive nanofillers, resulting from the low interfacial interaction between polymer and nanofiller, can be highly beneficial for enhancing the electrical properties of the derived nanocomposites. These nanocomposites have been studied using a multi-scale approach, from evaluation of their bulk properties via rheology and conductivity measurements, to microscale characterization via imaging by laser scanning confocal and transmission electron microscopy, and measurement of particle/polymer interactions via atomic force microscopy. This multi-time-scale analysis lends itself naturally to a hierarchical control framework of the particle dispersion in PNCs, whereby overall objectives for the derived nanocomposites can be addressed at a bulk level, while the micro and molecular scale measurements can be used to guide the selection of polymer/nanofiller candidates for an application of interest. Several illustrative case studies systems will be dis