Markus M. Hoffmann, Ph.D

Professor (Chemistry and Biochemistry)
(585) 395-5587
Office: Smith Hall 222


  • PhD, Washington University, St. Louis, MO, 1997

Areas of Specialty

  • Physical Chemistry
  • NMR spectroscopy
  • Green Solvents
  • Polyethylene Glycol
  • Physical Property Measurements
  • Molecular Dynamics Simulations

Courses Taught


  • CHM 302 – Inorganic Chemistry I
  • CHM 406 – Physical Chemistry I
  • CHM 408 – Physical Chemistry I Laboratory
  • CHM 205 – General Chemistry I Laboratory
  • CHM 400 – Seminar I


  • CHM303 – Analytical Chemistry I
  • CHM406 – Physical Chemistry II
  • CHM409 – Physical Chemistry II Laboratory
  • CHM206 – General Chemistry II Laboratory
  • CHM401 – Seminar II
  • CHM413 – Spectral Interpretation

Research Interests


Traditional solvents in chemical synthesis are typically volatile, flammable and oftentimes toxic and harmful to the environment. One of the 12 Principles of Green Chemistry consequently concerns the replacement of traditional solvents with environmentally benign ones. One potential solvent that has been evaluated as “green solvent” is polyethylene glycol (PEG). Much less evaluated as green solvents are PEG related nonionic surfactants. As solvents, these may dissolve a wide variety of substances because of their amphiphilic structure. Just like PEG, they too are environmentally benign substances because they possess low vapor pressure, are biodegradable and with respect to toxicity, there are no concerns because they are already widely used in industrial and household products. As a proof of concept, we have been able to carry out a particular Diels-Alder reaction in these surfactant media.

Very excitingly, since 2015 there is an ongoing research collaboration with the Buntkowsky group at the Technical University in Darmstadt, Germany. Their expertise is in solid-state NMR spectroscopy and thus they study systems that are solid such as catalyst materials, which often very porous materials with large surface areas. Interestingly, PEG is a glass former and thus, when frozen preserves the structure of the liquid state. Moreover, we found out, that although the PEG related surfactants form at least in part crystalline structures, there are surprisingly still molecular motions active in the frozen state. Thus, we are using solid state research to learn more about the liquid structure and dynamics of PEG and related surfactants.

This collaborative research is presently supported by German and US funding (NSF CHE 1953428) and has brought about some important project outcomes. Specifically, through physical property measurements (density, viscosity, and self-diffusion coefficients,, ) and molecular dynamics (MD) simulations (, very useful practical findings were made:

  • The mixture composition of PEG200 does not vary significantly from vendor to vendor.
  • The physical properties of PEGs are only dependent on the average molar mass but not the composition.
  • The presence of water, the main impurity of PEGs, does not alter significantly its properties.
  • The physical properties of PEG can be predicted from the properties of the individual oligomer components.
  • The components of PEG200 do not cluster together but are spread evenly throughout.
  • There are significant intra- and intermolecular hydrogen bonding interactions present in PEG200 that need to be carefully considered for properly modeling the oligomer components.

Broader Impacts:

The findings show that low molar weight PEGs are quite robust solvents in so far that vendor source, exact composition and water impurities have all negligible impact how PEG behaves. This should encourage synthetic and industrial chemists to use PEG as a green solvent.

A total of nine undergraduate students of diverse backgrounds were involved in the project so far, including travel to Germany to conduct research in collaboration labs, gaining valuable professional experiences as future graduate student researchers or employees.


  • Applied Physics
  • Applied Sciences
  • Chemical Engineering Communication
  • Chemical Geology
  • Chemical Product and Process Modeling (CPPM)
  • ChemistrySelect
  • ChemPhysChem
  • Colloids and Surfaces A: Physicochemical and Engineering Aspects
  • Fluid Phase Equilibria
  • Industrial & Engineering Chemistry Research
  • Inorganic Chemistry
  • International Journal of Molecular Sciences
  • Journal of Chemical & Engineering Data
  • Journal of Chemical Education
  • Journal of Colloid and Interface Sciences
  • Journal of Fluorine Chemistry
  • Journal of Molecular Liquids
  • Journal of Physical Chemistry
  • Journal of Solution Chemistry
  • Journal of Supercritical Fluids
  • Journal of The American Chemical Society
  • Journal of Undergraduate Chemistry Research
  • Langmuir
  • Magnetochemistry
  • Metabolites
  • Molecules
  • Physical Chemistry Chemical Physics (PCCP)
  • Physics and Chemistry of Liquids
  • Scientific Reports
  • Scientific World Journal
  • Sensors
  • Soils
  • Zeitschrift für Physikalische Chemie