Sanat K. Kumar


535D S.W. Mudd
Mail Code 4721

Tel(347) 351-5314
Fax(212) 854-3054

Sanat K. Kumar creates, analyzes, and models new classes of polymer-based materials with improved properties. A particular focus is on hybrid materials (polymer with inorganic filler) with relevance to biomimicry, and energy storage and conversion. 

Research Interests

Polymers, polymer nanocomposites, batteries, fuel cells, biomimetic materials.

Kumar’s group has been the pioneer over the last decade in the practically relevant topic of Polymer Nanocomposites where inorganic nanoparticles are added to polymers to obtain materials with synergistic properties. A central problem in this area is that the inorganic, hydrophilic nanoparticles are frequently immiscible (organic) polymers – thus the promised property improvements from these materials have remained hard to realize. Thus, many industrial applications use predefined “recipes” to make products, with spectacular failures, such as tire tread separation that happened some time ago, being the consequence of our poor understanding of these systems and therefore their properties.

His work in this area spans all topics of polymer nanocomposites including self-assembly, microstructure, glassy segmental dynamics and vitrification, elasticity and reinforcement, linear and nonlinear mechanical-dynamical phenomena (such as strain softening and yielding), chain relaxation, and nanoparticle diffusion and dynamics. The work in this group combines theory, simulation, and experiment to advance the science of energy conversion and storage (membranes for gas separation and for the selective transport of ions as relevant to batteries) and more recently to mimic biology (e.g., the development of hierarchical morphologies as found in Nacre with the goal of achieving unprecedented improvements in properties and the use of DNA to guide the assembly of nanoparticle into desired structures).

Kumar received a BTech in chemical engineering from the Indian Institute of Technology, Madras in 1981 and a ScD in chemical engineering from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in 1987.  He joined the faculty of Columbia Engineering in 2006. 


  • Director’s postdoctoral fellow, IBM Almaden, San Jose, CA, 1987-1988


  • Bykhovsky Professor of Chemical Engineering, Columbia University, 2016–
  • Chair of chemical engineering, Columbia University, 2010-2016
  • Professor of chemical engineering, Columbia University, 2006-
  • Professor of chemical engineering, Renssalaer Polytechnic Institute, 2002-2006
  • Professor of materials science & engineering, Penn State University, 1997-2002
  • Associate professor of materials science & engineering, Penn State University, 1993-1997
  • Assistant professor of materials science & engineering, Penn State University, 1988-1993


  • American Physical Society
  • American Chemical Society
  • American Institute of Chemical Engineers


  • Chair, Gordon Conference, Polymer Physics, 2020
  • Associate editor, Soft Matter, 2017-
  • Chair, APS Polymer Physics Division, 2017-18
  • Editor, NPJ Computational Materials, 2016-2017
  • Editor, Journal of Polymer Science, 2002-2007
  • Fellow, American Physical Society, 1999


  • Zhao, D., Gimenez-Pinto, V., Jimenez, A.M., Zhao, L., Jestin, J., Kumar, S.K., Kuei, B., Gomez, E.D., Prasad, A.S., Schadler, L.S., Khani, M.M. and Benicewicz, B.C.  Tunable Nanoparticle Ordering in Semicrystalline Polymers, ACS Central Sci., in press (2017).
  • Kumar, S.K., Benicewicz, B., Vaia, R.A. and Winey, K.I. 50th Anniversary Perspective: Are Polymer Nanocomposites Practical for Applications? Macromolecules, 50, 714(2017). 
  • Starr, F., Douglas, J.F., Meng, D. and Kumar, S.K. Bound Layers “Cloak" Nanoparticles in Strongly Interacting Polymer Nanocomposites, ACS Nano, 10, 10960(2016).
  • Baeza, G.P., Dessi, C., Costanzo, S., Zhao, D., Gong, S., Alegria A., Colby, R.H., Rubinstein, M., Vlassopoulos, D. and Kumar, S.K. Network dynamics in nanofilled polymers, Nature communications, 7, (2016).
  • Zhang, Y., Pal, S., Srinivasan, B., Vo, T., Kumar, S.K. and Gang O. Selective Transformation Between Superlattices via the Reprogamming of DNA Interactions. Nat. Mat., 14, 840-847(2015).
  • Mahynski, N. A., Panagiotopoulos, A. Z., Meng, D. & Kumar, S. K. Stabilizing colloidal crystals by leveraging void distributions. Nature communications 5 (2014).
  • J. T. Kalathi, U. Yamamoto, K. S. Schweizer, G. S. Grest, S. K. Kumar. "Diffusion in Polymer Nanocomposites". Physical Review Letters v. 112, pp. 108301, 2014.
  • Kumar, S.K., Jouault, N., Benicewicz, B. and Neely, T. Nanocomposites with Polymer Grafted Nanoparticles, Macromol., 46, 3199(2013).
  • Akcora, P., Liu, H., Kumar, S.K., Moll, J., Li, Y., Benicewicz, B.C., Schadler, L.S., Acehan, D., Panagiotopoulos, A.Z., Pryamitsyn, V., Ganesan, V., Ilavsky, J., Thiyagarajan, P., Colby, R.H. and Douglas, J.F. Anisotropic self-assembly of spherical polymer-grafted nanoparticles. Nat. Mat., 8, 354 (2009).
  • Bansal, A., Yang, H., Li, C., Cho, K., Benicewicz, B.C., Kumar, S.K. and Schadler L.S. “Quantitative Equivalence between Polymer Nanocomposites and Thin Polymer Films.” Nature Materials, 4, 693(2005).