Molecular Soft Materials & Reactive Self Assembly

The behavior, life-time, and spatial distribution of self-assembled materials can be controlled by coupling chemical reactions to the self-assembly process. Typical examples are dynamic covalent materials, where the material contains reversible covalent bonds, and active materials, where formation is driven using chemical fuels. In this context, we also have a special focus on using catalysis to control the formation and properties of soft materials. The group has extensive expertise in the design, synthesis, characterization and application of self-assembled molecular materials, with a focus on surfactants and hydrogels.

Principal investigators: Rienk Eelkema and Jan van Esch


Key references: Nature Chem. 2013, 5, 433; Angew. Chem. Int. Ed. 2010, 49, 4825; Angew. Chem. Int. Ed. 2014, 53, 4132; OBC 2014, 12, 6292; J. Am. Chem. Soc. 2012, 134, 12908; Angew. Chem. Int. Ed. 2013, 52, 1998; Angew. Chem. Int. Ed. 2011, 50, 3421.

Soft Materials for Energy Applications

We develop new materials and concepts for polyelectrolyte membrane fuel cells, a technology of high potential for future renewable energy solutions. The team is looking at liquid crystalline polymers and composites with inorganic nanoparticles that increase the water content of the membranes, as future Nafion® replacements. Concerning the electrocatalytic layer the team is working on in situ Pt-regeneration, an alternative catalyst support using propriety Carbon Nano Networks (CNN), and using non-noble alternatives to Pt, in particular carbon itself. The team is developing graphene-based nanocomposites for bi-polar plates that have high heat and electrical conductivity while being chemically stable. All these developments are essential to fuel cell development, while simultaneously instrumental to materials developments in other fields.

Principal Investigators: Ger Koper and Stephen Picken
In collaboration with Fokko Mulder (MECS), Erik Kelder (FAME) and Theo Dingemans (LR-ASM).


Key references: Latsuzbaia, R.; Negro, E.; Koper, G. J. M., Environmentally Friendly Carbon-Preserving Recovery of Noble Metals From Supported Fuel Cell Catalysts. ChemSusChem 2015, 8, 1926-1934. Negro, E.; Dieci, M.; Sordi, D.; Kowlgi, K.; Makkee, M.; Koper, G. J. M., High yield, controlled synthesis of graphitic networks from dense micro emulsions. Chem. Commun. 2014. Kowlgi, K.; Lafont, U.; Rappolt, M.; Koper, G., Uniform metal nanoparticles produced at high yield in dense microemulsions. J. Colloid Interface Sci. 2012, 372, 16-23.

Functional Soft Matter

My research activities in the field of Functional Soft Matter focus on fundamental aspects of self-assembled, nano-structured (polymer) systems that exhibit a passive function (i.e., transport of hydrogen due to film structure in a fuel cell membrane) or are active systems, that is, they respond strongly, usually mechanically, to external fields. Among the passive self-assembled systems that I study, you will find gels, polymersomes, spherical and worm-like copolymer micelles. They find applications in tissue engineering, drug delivery, cancer imaging and therapy as well as in food coatings and emulsion stability. Examples of active & responsive soft systems that I study are pH or magneto responsive gels or large, multi responsive gel cilia arrays.

Principal Investigator: Eduardo Mendes


Key publications:
Responsive Biomimetic Cytoskeletal Networks from Polyisocyanopeptide Hydrogels, Nature 493, 618-619 (2013)
Generating Aligned Micellar Nanowire Arrays by De-wetting of Micro-patterned Surfaces Small 2014, 10, No. 9, 1729–1734
Multi-stimuli responsive hydrogel cilia, Advanced Functional Materials, 23, 2964-2970 (2013)