Polymer materials have made our life comfortable; they have also contributed to prolong it. One type of such materials are polymer networks and gels, and a particularly promising sub-type of these are active polymer gels. These are soft materials with adaptive action, whose function is based on non-covalent binding in the gel network, either in a sense of transient chain connectivity or in a sense of delicate interactions of the chains with their environment. Both modes of action can serve in various advanced applications in which a gel specimen serves to adapt its degree of swelling, its viscoelasticity, and its permeability in response to external parameters. To make this all truly useful, though, it is necessary to understand the mutual interplay between (nano)structure, dynamics, and properties of these fascinating materials.
This endeavor has been in our group’s focus for decades.
At the same time, our world witnessed increasing impacts of the most dangerous threat in mankind's history: the climate crisis.
Whereas polymer materials, including networks and gels, are stereotypes of the 20th century one-way economy that led into this crisis, they also have excellent promise to contribute to addressing our present climate and resource crises. There's two areas for that.
First, polymer gels have promise to help in adapting to climate-crisis consequences. For example, charged sensitive hydrogels that are active and switchable can serve to purify, detox, and desalinate water to ensure supply with this essential resource. Second, polymer-network materials that are interlinked non-covalently have prospect to be fully recyclable, thereby paving path to transform essentials such as rubbers and superabsorbers into a cyclic economy.
Our research is centered around these two areas. We target at the elementary understanding of the interplay of (nano)structure, dynamics, and properties of active and supramolecular polymer networks and gels such to develop material concepts for the two fields. With that, our work aims at contributing to make the 21st century the age in which mankind transformed its materials economy such to ensure a livable, lasting, and lovely planet.
A. Fery, IPF Dresden
Core–Shell Microgels with Switchable Elasticity
ACS Appl. Mater. Interfaces 2016, 8, 16317–16327.
W. Richtering, RWTH Aachen University
Dynamics in Composite Gels, Microgel Packings, and Core–Shell Microgels
J. Am. Chem. Soc. 2012, 134, 15963–15969.
J. Colloid Interface Sci. 2014, 431, 204–208.
Colloid Polym. Sci. 2017, 295, 1371–1381.
R. von Klitzing, TU Darmstadt
Mechanics of Inhomogeneous Polymer Gels
ACS Macro Lett. 2015, 4, 698–703.
K. Saalwächter, Halle University
Microgel Phase Transitions
Macromol. Chem. Phys. 2014, 215, 1116–1133.
J. Polym. Sci. B: Polym. Phys. 2015, 53, 1112–1122.
D. A. Weitz, Harvard University; R. Haag, FU Berlin
J. Am. Chem. Soc. 2012, 134, 4983−4989.
Angew. Chem. Int. Ed. 2013, 52, 13538–13543.
Adv. Healthcare Mater. 2015, 4, 1841–1848.
B. D. Olsen, Massachusetts Institute of Technology
Microscopic Chain Dynamics in Supramolecular Polymer-Network Gels
Macromolecules 2016, 49, 5599–5608.
Recent and Current Industry Projects
Siemens AG, Berlin, Germany
Polymer-Based Engine Insulators
Procter & Gamble Germany GmbH & Co Operations oHG, Schwalbach, Germany
BASF SE, Ludwigshafen, Germany
Microgel Additives for Care Products