Rhett Smith Research Group

Clemson University (site under construction)


Advocating academic accessibility for all.

Professor Rhett Smith got his chemistry training at the University of Toledo (B.S.), Case Western Reserve University (Ph.D.) and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (NIH Postdoctoral Fellowship), and he has been a professor of organic chemistry at Clemson University since 2006.


Hunter Laboratory Room 479

Rhett Smith's personal and professional research interests are in three general areas:

1. Educational Access: Free online Organic Chemistry Education and Science Literature

​​Professor Smith created a free online organic chemistry class to increase accessibility to knowledge and to help everyone who is trying to adapt to our increased reliance on online learning during the pandemic. This is a complete organic chemistry class, with an online textbook, mini-quizzes after each lesson for self-assessment, traditional lecture videos, and a lot of teaching through solved problem videos. Recently Dr. Smith has released a free Organic for the MCAT Course as well.

Professor Smith is also a strong proponent of Open Access journals, and serves on the editorial boards of two Open Access journals: Sustainability and Sustainable Chemistry.

2. Student Mental Health


Rhett Smith leads the Neuroscience Group at Clemson University. This is a group of undergraduates doing research and working to help college students understand mental health issues and how they influence the social and academic lives of college students. These efforts have led to the publication of a book "Your Concise Primer on ADHD and Related Conditions" coauthored by the undergraduate students and edited by Professor Smith. The Neuroscience Group is currently working to prepare a book on Anxiety disorders as a resource for students.


3. Sustainable Plastics and Building Materials


Rhett Smith's research team of Ph.D. students and undergraduates engages in concerted efforts to improve the sustainability and recyclability of plastics and building materials. The Smith group has been featured in the news recently for these efforts for sustainable cement and for evaluating ways to recycle plastics. Recent publications from the Smith group describe these efforts in more detail.


1. T. Thiounn, R.C. Smith, Advances and approaches for chemical recycling of plastic waste, Journal of Polymer Science (Hoboken, NJ, United States) 58 (2020) 1347– 1364. D.O.I.: 10.1002/pol.20190261.

2. T. Thiounn, M.K. Lauer, M.S. Karunarathna, A.G. Tennyson, R.C. Smith, Copolymerization of a Bisphenol a Derivative and Elemental Sulfur by the RASP Process, Sus. Chem. 1 (2020) 183-197. D.O.I.: 10.3390/suschem1020013.

3. T. Thiounn, M.S. Karunarathna, L.M. Slann, M.K. Lauer, R.C. Smith, Sequential Crosslinking for Mechanical Property Development in High Sulfur Content Composites, Journal of Polymer Science (Hoboken, NJ, United States) 58 (2020) 1347–1364. D.O.I.: 10.1002/pol.20190261.

4. A.D. Smith, R.C. Smith, A.G. Tennyson, Carbon-Negative Polymer Cements by Copolymerization of Waste Sulfur, Oleic Acid, and Pozzolan Cements, Sustainable Chemistry and Pharmacy 16 (2020) 100249. D.O.I.: 10.1016/j.scp.2020.100249.
5. A.D. Smith , R.C. Smith, A.G. Tennyson, Sulfur-Containing Polymers Prepared from Fatty Acid-Derived Monomers: Application of Atom-Economical Thiol-ene/Thiol-yne Click Reactions and Inverse Vulcanization Strategies Sus. Chem. 1 (2020) 209-237. D.O.I.: 10.3390/suschem1030015.

6. A.D. Smith, C.D. McMillin, R.C. Smith, A.G. Tennyson, Copolymers by Inverse Vulcanization of Sulfur with Pure or Technical Grade Unsaturated Fatty Acids, J. Poly. Sci. 58 (2020) 438-445. D.O.I.: 10.1002/pola.29436.

7. C.P. Maladeniya, M.S. Karunarathna, M.K. Lauer, C.V. Lopez, T. Thiounn, R.C. Smith, A Role for Terpenoid Cyclization in the Atom Economical Polymerization of Terpenoids with Sulfur to Yield Durable Composites, Materials Advances 1 (2020) 1665 - 1674. D.O.I.: 10.1039/D0MA00474J.

8. C.V. Lopez, C.P. Maladeniya, R.C. Smith, Lithium-Sulfur Batteries: Advances and Trends, Electrochem. 1 (2020) 226-259. D.O.I.: 10.3390/electrochem1030016.

9. C.V. Lopez, M.S. Karunarathna, M.K. Lauer, C.P. Maladeniya, T. Thiounn, E.D. Ackley, R.C. Smith, High Strength, Acid-Resistant Composites from Canola, Sunflower, or Linseed Oils: Influence of Triglyceride Unsaturation on Material Properties, J. Poly. Sci. 58 (2020) 2259-2266. D.O.I.: 10.1002/pol.20200292.

10. M.K. Lauer, A. Tennyson, G., R.C. Smith, Green Synthesis of Thermoplastic Composites from a Terpenoid-Cellulose Ester, ACS Appl. Polym. Mater. 2 (2020) 3761–3765. D.O.I.: 10.1021/acsapm.0c00803.

11. M.K. Lauer, R.C. Smith, Recent advances in starch-based films towards food packaging applications: Physicochemical, mechanical, and functional properties, Comprehensive Reviews in Food Science and Food Safety  (2020) 1-53,  https://doi.org/10.1111/1541-4337.12627. D.O.I.: 10.1111/1541-4337.12627.

12. M.K. Lauer, M.S. Karunarathna, G. Tennyson Andrew, R.C. Smith, Robust, remeltable and remarkably simple to prepare biomass–sulfur composites, Mater. Adv. 1 (2020) 2271-2278. D.O.I.: 10.1039/d0ma00538j.

13. M.K. Lauer, M.S. Karunarathna, A. Tennyson, G., R.C. Smith, Recyclable, Sustainable, and Stronger than Portland Cement: A Composite from Unseparated Biomass and Fossil Fuel Waste, Mater. Adv. 1 (2020) 590-594. D.O.I.: 10.1039/D0MA00270D.

14. M.S. Karunarathna, A.G. Tennyson, R.C. Smith, Facile new approach to high sulfur-content materials and preparation of sulfur-lignin copolymers, Journal of Materials Chemistry A: Materials for Energy and Sustainability 8 (2020) 548-553 D.O.I.: 10.1039/c9ta10742h.

15. M.S. Karunarathna, R.C. Smith, Valorization of Lignin as a Sustainable Component of Structural Materials and Composites: Advances from 2011 to 2019 Sustainability 12(2) (2020) 734-748. D.O.I.: 10.3390/su12020734.

16. M.S. Karunarathna, M.K. Lauer, A.G. Tennyson, R.C. Smith, Copolymerization of an aryl halide and elemental sulfur as a route to high sulfur content materials, Polymer Chemistry 11 (2020) 1621-1628. D.O.I.: 10.1039/c9py01706b.

17. M.S. Karunarathna, M.K. Lauer, R.C. Smith, Facile route to an organosulfur composite from biomass-derived guaiacol and waste sulfur, Journal of Materials Chemistry A 8(39) (2020) 20318-20322. D.O.I.: 10.1039/D0TA07465A.

18. X. Yang, R.C. Smith, Phosphonium-based polyelectrolyte networks with high thermal stability, high alkaline stability, and high surface areas, Journal of Polymer Science, Part A: Polymer Chemistry 57(5) (2019) 598-604. D.O.I.: 10.1002/pola.29298.

19. X. Yang, M.S. Bedford, W. Wan, C.A. Conrad, E.F. Colter, E.H. Freeman, C. Wilson, L. Hu, G. Chumanov, K.J. Whitehead, R.C. Smith, Intercation spacing and side chain effects on phosphonium polymers: Thermal, supramolecular, and bactericidal properties, Journal of Polymer Science, Part A: Polymer Chemistry 57(1) (2019) 24-34. D.O.I.: 10.1002/pola.29274.

20. W. Wan, M.S. Silva, C.D. McMillen, S.E. Creager, R.C. Smith, Highly Luminescent Heavier Main Group Analogues of Boron-Dipyrromethene, Journal of the American Chemical Society 141(22) (2019) 8703-8707. D.O.I.: 10.1021/jacs.9b03235.

21. W. Wan, M.S. Bedford, C.A. Conrad, X. Yang, R.C. Smith, Influence of Side-Chain Composition on Polythiophene Properties and Supramolecular Assembly of Anionic Polythiophene Derivatives, Journal of Polymer Science, Part A: Polymer Chemistry 57(11) (2019) 1173-1179. D.O.I.: 10.1002/pola.29371.

22. T. Thiounn, A.G. Tennyson, R.C. Smith, Durable, acid-resistant copolymers from industrial by-product sulfur and microbially-produced tyrosine, RSC Advances 9(54) (2019) 31460-31465. D.O.I.: 10.1039/c9ra06213k.

23. A.D. Smith, T. Thiounn, E.W. Lyles, E.K. Kibler, R.C. Smith, A.G. Tennyson, Combining agriculture and energy industry waste products to yield recyclable, thermally healable copolymers of elemental sulfur and oleic acid, Journal of Polymer Science, Part A: Polymer Chemistry 57(15) (2019) 1704-1710. D.O.I.: 10.1002/pola.29436.

24. M.K. Lauer, T.A. Estrada-Mendoza, C.D. McMillen, G. Chumanov, A.G. Tennyson, R.C. Smith, Durable Cellulose–Sulfur Composites Derived from Agricultural and Petrochemical Waste, Advanced Sustainable Systems 3(10) (2019) 1900062. D.O.I.: 10.1002/adsu.201900062.

25. M.S. Karunarathna, M.K. Lauer, T. Thiounn, R.C. Smith, A.G. Tennyson, Valorization of waste to yield recyclable composites of elemental sulfur and lignin, Journal of Materials Chemistry A: Materials for Energy and Sustainability 7(26) (2019) 15683-15690. D.O.I.: 10.1039/c9ta03222c.

26. W. Wan, X. Yang, R. Smith, Synthesis and characterization of polyelectrolytes containing tetraarylphosphonium moieties by using diphenylphsophine as commercial building block, Abstracts of Papers, 255th ACS National Meeting & Exposition, New Orleans, LA, United States, March 18-22, 2018  (2018) POLY-644.
27. T. Thiounn, M.K. Lauer, M.S. Bedford, R.C. Smith, A.G. Tennyson, Thermally-healable network solids of sulfur-crosslinked poly(4-allyloxystyrene), RSC Advances 8(68) (2018) 39074-39082. D.O.I.: 10.1039/c8ra06847j.

28. R.C. Smith, A.G. Tennyson, Covalently cross-linked lignocellulosic composites, (USA). Application: US
US, 2018, p. 14pp.

29. X. Yang, Y. Wen, G. Chumanov, R.C. Smith, A new route to phosphonium polymer network solids via cyclotrimerization, Journal of Polymer Science, Part A: Polymer Chemistry 55(9) (2017) 1620-1625. D.O.I.: 10.1002/pola.28535.

30. W. Wan, X. Yang, R.C. Smith, Convenient synthetic route to tetraarylphosphonium polyelectrolytes via palladium-catalyzed P-C coupling of aryl triflates and diphenylphosphine, Journal of Polymer Science, Part A: Polymer Chemistry 55(12) (2017) 1984-1990. D.O.I.: 10.1002/pola.28564.

31. W. Wan, X. Yang, R.C. Smith, Convenient route to tetraarylphosphonium polyelectrolytes via metal-catalysed P-C coupling polymerisation of aryl dihalides and diphenylphosphine, Chemical Communications (Cambridge, United Kingdom) 53(1) (2017) 252-254. D.O.I.: 10.1039/c6cc08938k.

32. X. Yang, C.A. Conrad, W. Wan, M.S. Bedford, L. Hu, G. Chumanov, R.C. Smith, Influence of spacer length and rigidity on properties of phosphonium polymers and on their supramolecular assembly with a conjugated polyelectrolyte, Journal of Materials Chemistry C: Materials for Optical and Electronic Devices 3(17) (2015) 4537-4544. D.O.I.: 10.1039/c4tc02576h.

33. B.J. Laughlin, Y. Htet, S. He, T.L. Duniho, S.J. El Homsi, J. Ma, A.G. Tennyson, R.C. Smith, Preparation of poly(p-phenylene vinylene) derivatives by a debromination-chain polymerization-debromination sequence, European Polymer Journal 70 (2015) 197-202. D.O.I.: 10.1016/j.eurpolymj.2015.05.012.

34. C.A. Conrad, M.S. Bedford, A.A. Buelt, Y. Galabura, I. Luzinov, R.C. Smith, Phosphonium polyelectrolytes: influence of diphosphine spacer on layer-by-layer assembly with anionic conjugated polymers, Polymer International 64(10) (2015) 1381-1388. D.O.I.: 10.1002/pi.4930.

35. A.A. Buelt, C.A. Conrad, W.D. MacKay, M.F. Shehata, V.D. Smith, R.C. Smith, Conjugated polymers with regularly spaced m-phenylene units and post-polymerization modification to yield stimuli-responsive materials, Polymer International 64(6) (2015) 730-739. D.O.I.: 10.1002/pi.4877.

36. M.S. Bedford, X. Yang, K.M. Jolly, R.L. Binnicker, S.B. Cramer, C.E. Keen, C.J. Mairena, A.P. Patel, M.T. Rivenbark, Y. Galabura, I. Luzinov, R.C. Smith, Tetraarylphosphonium polyelectrolyte chromophores: synthesis, stability, photophysics, film morphology and critical surface energy, Polymer Chemistry 6(6) (2015) 900-908. D.O.I.: 10.1039/c4py01483a.