Justin R. Barone


Ph.D., Macromolecular Science and Engineering, Case Western Reserve University, 2000

M.S., Engineering Science, New Jersey Institute of Technology, 1997

B.S., Materials Science and Engineering, Lehigh University, 1994


Jan 2007 - Present - Associate Professor, Biological Systems Engineering Department, Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University, Blacksburg, Va.

Sept. 2002 - Dec. 2006, Research Chemist, USDA/ARS, Beltsville, Md.

Apr. 2000 - Sept. 2002 - Advanced R&D Engineer, Polymer Diagnostics, Inc. (a division of the PolyOne Corp.), Avon Lake, Ohio

Jan. 1995 - Feb. 1996 - Project Engineer, Utility Development Corporation, Livingston, N.J.


Editorial Board Member, Biological Physics, Scientific Reports, Nature Publishing Group.

Courses Taught Last Five Years

  • BSE 3154 Thermodynamics of Biological Systems
  • BSE 3504 Transport Processes in Biological Systems
  • BSE 4644/5644 Biobased Industrial Polymers

Other Teaching and Advising

I have mentored 18 undergraduate students in my research laboratory in the past 5 years and served as the Director of the NSF-REU Site: Bioprocess Engineering for Sustainability.  I also mentor a 3-5 person senior design team each academic year.

Program Focus

Program Focus

The Renewable Materials Research Group is interested in creating new biobased materials and using low energy processing to make new polymer materials.  We want to design scalable, low energy processes for renewable materials.  We are pursuing innovative materials and interesting processing:

Self-assembly. Protein molecules can self-assemble into high performance nanostructures called “amyloids”.  Amyloids can take the form of nanofibers or nanotapes.  We are using protein self-assembly as a platform to design useful materials such as fibers and composites.

Polymer Processing. Our research group specializes in biopolymer compounding.  We continue to pursue the creation of new biopolymers for use in commodity plastics applications like packaging and automobile parts.  Typical polymer processing involves synthesis, compounding, and molding.  Biopolymers are synthesized in water at low temperature and at atmospheric pressure.  Typical fossil fuel based polymers are synthesized in organic solvent and/or at very high temperature and pressure.  Both are compounded and molded but biopolymers are compounded and molded at much lower temperature.

The Renewable Materials Research Group is part of the Biomolecular Engineering Cluster at Virginia Tech, which includes the Biofuels and Carbohydrates Laboratory , Metabolic Engineering and Systems Biology Laboratory , Ruder Research Group , and Zhang Research Group .

Selected Recent Publications

(* undergraduate student, ** graduate student, *** post-doc)

  • B.L. DeButts**, C. Spivey, and J.R. Barone, "Protein aggregates as the nanofiller in polymer nanocomposites," ACS Applies Materials and Interfaces (submitted).
  • B.L. DeButts**, L.E. Hanzly**, and J.R. Barone, "Protein-rubber composites," Journal of Applied Polymer Science (submitted).
  • W. Zhange**, J.R. Barone, S.H. Renneckar, "Reducing the heterogeneity of xylan through processing," Carbohydrate Polymers, 150, 250-258 (2016).
  • W. Zhang**, N. Sathitsuksanoh***, B. Simmons, C.E. Frazier, J.R. Barone, and S.H. Renneckar, “Revealing the thermal sensitivity of lignin through structural analysis,” RSC Advances, 6(36) 30234-30246 (2016).
  • D.M. Hall**, I.R. Bruss**, J.R. Barone, and G.M. Grason, “Morphological selection via geometric frustration in chiral filament bundles,” Nature Materials, 15, 727-732 (2016).
  • W. Zhang**, N. Sathitsuksanoh***, J.R. Barone, and S.H. Renneckar, “Enhanced enzymatic saccharification using glycerol thermal processing (GTP),” Bioresource Technology, 199(1), 148-154 (2016).
  • G.P. Noble**, D.W. Wang, D.J. Walsh, J.R. Barone, M.B. Miller, K.A. Nishina, S. Li, and S. Supattapone, “A structural and functional comparison between infectious and non-infectious autocatalytic recombinant Prp conformers,” PLoS Pathogens, 11(6), e1005017 (2015).
  • E.C. Claunch**, D.M. Ridgley**, and J.R. Barone, “Completely self-assembled fiber composites,” Composites Science and Technology, 117, 1-8 (2015).
  • D.M. Ridgley**, C.M.W. Rippner**, and J.R. Barone, “Design and construction of large amyloid fibers,” Fibers, 3(2), 90-102 (2015).  (invited feature article)
  • W. Zhang**, J.R. Barone, and S.H. Renneckar, “Biomass fractionation after denaturing cell walls by glycerol thermal processing,” ACS Sustainable Chemistry and Engineering, 3(3), 413-420 (2015).
  • C.S. Tuck*, A. Latham*, P.W. Lee*, and J.R. Barone, “Wheat gluten protein plasticized with its own hydrolysate,” Journal of Polymers and the Environment, 22(4), 430-438 (2014).
  • W.H. Frame**, D.M. Ridgley**, K. Gaasch*, M. Alley, J.R. Barone, and C. Shang, “Ureolytic activity of soybean and corn residue extracts,” Communications in Soil Science and Plant Analysis, 45(22), 2959-2969 (2014).
  • D.M. Ridgley**, E.C. Claunch**, P.W. Lee*, and J.R. Barone, “The role of protein hydrophobicity in conformation change and self-assembly into large amyloid fibers,” Biomacromolecules, 15(4), 1240-1247 (2014).
  • D.M. Ridgley**, B.G. Freedman**, P.W. Lee*, and J.R. Barone, “Genetically encoded self-assembly of large amyloid fibers,” Biomaterials Science, 2(4), 560-566 (2014).
  • J.R. Barone, “Composites of nanocellulose and lignin-like polymers,” in Cellulose Based Composites. New Green Nanomaterials, ed. J. Hinestroza and A. Netravali, Chapter 9, pgs. 183-199, Wiley-VCH (2014).
  • D.M. Ridgley**, E.C. Claunch**, and J.R. Barone, “Characterization of large amyloid fibers and tapes by FT-IR and Raman spectroscopy,” Applied Spectroscopy, 67(12), 1417-1426 (2013).
  • D.M. Ridgley** and J.R. Barone, “Evolution of the amyloid fiber over multiple length scales,” ACS Nano, 7(2), 1006-1015 (2013).
  • D.M. Ridgley**, E.C. Claunch**, and J.R. Barone, “The effect of processing on large, self-assembled amyloid fibers,” Soft Matter, 8(40), 10298-10306 (2012).

Selected Recent Funding

  • USDA-NIFA, “Compounding amyloid reinforcement into rubber,” $283,884 (PI), 2016-2019
  • NSF-CBET, “Multi-scale metabolic modeling and engineering workshop,” $17,304 (co-PI), 2016-2017
  • NSF I-Corps, “In situ nanofiller formation during polymer processing,” $50,000 (PI), 2016
  • NSF-I/UCRC-CenTiRe, “In situ nanofiller formation during tire rubber compounding,” $44,520 (PI), 2015-2016
  • NSF-EEC-RET, “Biomechanics from molecular to organismal scales,” $499,670 (senior personnel), 2013-2017
  • NSF-EEC-REU, “REU Site: Bioprocess engineering for sustainability,” $368,461 (PI), 2012-2016    
Justin Barone