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Current Topics in Polymer Research

Forthcoming Events

The seminars "Current Topics in Polymer Research" (Polymer and Soft Matter Seminars) will take place on Tuesdays at 4.15 pm in seminar room 1.27 at Von-Danckelmann-Platz 4.

23.01.2024 / 16.01.2024 / 09.01.2024 / 14.12.2023 / 12.12.2023 / 05.12.2023 / 28.11.2023 / 21.11.2023 / 14.11.2023 / 07.11.2023 / 24.10.2023 / 17.10.2023 / 10.10.2023

Events from previous years

Thu, 23.01.2024

16:15 Uhr im Seminarraum 1.27 Von-Danckelmann-Platz 4, 06120 Halle

We try to offer the hybrid option, but cannot guarantee it!

Prof. Dr. Seema Agarwal

Faculty of Biology, Chemistry and Earth Science, Macromolecular Chemistry, University of Bayreuth

Plastic pollution: Role of sustainable biodegradable polymers

The extreme stability of polymers has challenged society with the  accumulation of plastic waste and its management worldwide. Whether  biodegradable polymers can be one of the solutions to the problem of  plastic waste is a question very often raised in this context. The  answer is not straightforward as several aspects need to be considered  regarding environmental sustainability, acceptability, and degradability  in the complex natural environment. The present talk will discuss the  present scenario of the environmental acceptability of biodegradable  polymers and the opportunities and challenges they offer regarding  solving the problem of plastic pollution and their impact on the  environment.

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Thu, 16.01.2024

16:15 Uhr im Seminarraum 1.27 Von-Danckelmann-Platz 4, 06120 Halle

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Jun.-Prof. Dr. Christian Franke

Friedrich Schiller University Jena, Germany

Nanometer Resolution and Single-Molecule Sensitivity -
Super-Resolution Microscopy for Polymer Research

Fluorescence based super-resolution microscopy methods, such as single-molecule localization microscopy (SMLM), have emerged as the prime tool to investigate structure-function relationships of cellular organelles with three-dimensional nanometer resolution and single-molecule sensitivity. The unique nature of SMLM, i.e.  pinpointing molecular identities, has allowed a huge array of  discoveries in the life sciences. Besides the often prominently featured  ‘pretty pictures’ with unmatched spatial resolution of down to 10 nm,  SMLM offers the unique feature of analyzing the localization data  itself, which is commonly applied to cluster analyses, thus probing  spatial inhomogeneities in the target structure with distinct molecular  identities based on their spectral fingerprint, including anisotropy.

Although the main field of application of SMLM and related super-resolution techniques lies in cell biology and connected clinical research, its unique features regarding the multi-colour,  nanometric sampling of the target structure, topology and homogeneities  in large fields of view and volumes yield huge potential in polymer  research. For instance, we currently apply SMLM to study the nanoscale  structure-function relationship of polymeric nanoparticles,  utilized for drug delivery. Here, the goal is to correlate the  properties of the polymeric particle to their intracellular fate, to  yield a feedback loop to finally design nanoparticles of highest  efficacy and lowest toxicity.

Recently, we also started to apply SMLM to more fundamental polymeric systems, e.g.  the nanoscale architecture of polymeric hydrogels in different states  of hydration. SMLM usually requires aqueous environments, due to the  demanding requirements regarding the photo-physical properties of  commonly used dyes. We thus established a novel approach, at the same  time enabling SMLM in solid state polymeric, i.e. dry, environments, and utilizing these structures as novel reference structures for super-resolution  microscopy. This opens up entirely new avenues for SMLM analyses of  visualizing polymer matrices with nanometer resolution and changes  therein in context of potential ligands or changing environmental  conditions.

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Thu, 09.01.2024

16:15 Uhr im Seminarraum 1.27 Von-Danckelmann-Platz 4, 06120 Halle

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PD Dr. Robert Göstl

DWI – Leibniz Institute for Interactive Materials, Aachen, Germany
and RWTH Aachen University, Germany

From force-reporting to force-resistant: using mechanochemistry to understand polymer materials

One  of the grand scientific challenges of our time is how the remarkable  properties of matter emerge from the complex correlations of their  molecular constituents. We perform research adhering to this principle  by following the results of mechanical stress and strain on  macromolecular materials, which often requires to survey large samples  with molecular level resolution due to the multiscale nature of force.

To  do so, we firstly design and synthesize molecular optical force probes  and the respective macromolecular materials made from them in a  transdisciplinary approach.[1] We mainly employ Diels-Alder  adducts of π-extended anthracenes and maleimides reporting over covalent  bond scission events due to their sensitive nature and facile  tunability of their optical properties.[2,3]

Secondly,  we use these mechanofluorophores to investigate the mechanical behavior  of complex and non-uniform high-performance polymers, such as rubbers  and composites, and soft matter, e.g., hydrogels and colloidal  hydrogel networks, in detail developing novel methodologies. From these  experiments, we aim to draw conclusions over the behavior of these  materials under force.[4,5]

Eventually, we strive to use the insights gained from this to develop materials with improved mechanical properties by, e.g.,  introducing pathways to dissipate stresses at the locations where they  are most critical or to self-reinforce or by the activation of latent  functional motifs to perform mechanically activated chemical reactions.[6]

References
[1] S. He, M. Stratigaki, S. P. Centeno, A. Dreuw, R. Göstl, Chem. Eur. J. 2021, 27, 15889–15897.
[2] D. Yildiz, C. Baumann, A. Mikosch, A. J. C. Kuehne, A. Herrmann, R. Göstl, Angew. Chem. Int. Ed. 2019, 58, 12919–12923.
[3] C. Baumann, M. Stratigaki, S. P. Centeno, R. Göstl, Angew. Chem. Int. Ed. 2021, 60, 13287–13293.
[4] E. Izak-Nau, S. Braun, A. Pich, R. Göstl, Adv. Sci. 2022, 9, 2104004.
[5] S. He, S. Schog, Y. Chen, Y. Ji, S. Panitz, W. Richtering, R. Göstl, Adv. Mater. 2023, 35, 2305845.
[6] D. Campagna, R. Göstl, Angew. Chem. Int. Ed. 2022, 61, e202207557.

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Thu, 14.12.2023 - Special date

14:15 Uhr im Seminarraum 1.02 Von-Seckendorff-Platz 1, 06120 Halle

Prof. Dr. Alexey V. Lyulin

Soft Matter and Biological Physics, Department of Applied Physics and Science Education, Technische Universiteit Eindhoven, 5600 MB, Eindhoven, The Netherlands and Center for Computational Energy Research, Technische Universiteit Eindhoven, 5600 MB, Eindhoven, The Netherlands

Multiscale modelling of the glass transition in Nafion membranes for
perspective flow and fuel batteries

Nafion  is a commonly used polyelectrolyte membrane (PEM) in fuel cells and  flow batteries. Nanocomposites of Nafion are used to enhance temperature  resistance and proton conductivity. The properties of hydrated  membranes, and the water influence on Nafion glassy behavior is very  important. We first report molecular-dynamics simulations of Nafion  films of different thicknesses between two potential walls of variable  wettability [1]. The water cluster sizes showed an increase with film  thickness for the high wettability cases, in agreement with SAXS  experiments. The in-plane water diffusion was considerably enhanced for  the high wettability walls. We report the modelling of the annealing  effects on both structure, dynamics and electric conductivity of the  membranes. We observe [2] strong antiplasticization effect and increase  in the glass-transition temperature upon hydration. The hydrophilic  channels evolution upon annealing and associated changes in ion  diffusion and electric conductivity will be discussed. Large scale  Dissipative Particle Dynamics simulations were carried out as well to  study the temporal evolution of the water-PEM interface as a function of  the PEM side-chain length.

Acknowledgements
This  work was done as a part of the FOM-SHELL 15CSER13 research project and  was carried out on the Dutch national e-infrastructure with the support  of SURF Cooperative. AVL and AV both thank DUO-India Fellowship Program  for the possibility to visit and work at IISER Pune and TU Eindhoven,  correspondingly. Arun Venkatnathan thanks DST Nanomission Thematic Unit  (SR/NM/TP-13/2016(G)).

References
[1] S. Sengupta,  A. V. Lyulin, J. Phys. Chem. B, 122, 6107-6119, 2018.
[2] A. V. Lyulin  S. Sengupta, A. Varghese, P. Komarov and A. Venkatnathan, ACS Appl.  Polym. Mater., 2, 5058-5066, 2020.

Past Events

Tue, 12.12.2023

16:15 Uhr im Seminarraum 1.27 Von-Danckelmann-Platz 4, 06120 Halle

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Prof. Dr. Andreas Herrmann

Leibniz Institute for Interactive Materials DWI, Aachen, Germany
RWTH Aachen, Germany

Sonopharmacology and Sonogenetics: Activating drugs, proteins and genes by ultrasound

Remote  controlling biological systems is an exciting endeavour because it is  the offspring for new therapies and allows answering fundamental  biological questions. In this context, the field of optogenetics has  enabled the understanding of neural circuits and disorders.[1,2] However, current optogenetic techniques are hampered by the low  penetration of light into tissue and hence often require invasive  surgical procedures to deliver photons to target cells. Therefore,  ultrasound (US) was used as alternative trigger since US can deeply  penetrate tissue with high spatiotemporal control and has been safely  applied in the clinic for many decades.[3] Our group has  developed general molecular technologies to activate drugs, proteins and  nucleic acids by US employing principles from polymer mechano-chemistry.[4,5] Two types of mechano-sensitive carriers have been discovered, i.e.  high molar mass polynucleic acid aptamers and colloidal hydrogel  microbubbles. Polynucleic acids fabricated by enzymatic reactions  undergo covalent and non-covalent bond cleavage induced by shear forces originating from US-induced  cavitation bubbles. These nucleic acid carriers harbouring different  bioactive payloads allow the activation of small bioactive molecules and  drugs that can initiate gene expression, kill pathogens or cure  diseases.[4,5] Moreover, the activation of thrombin by US allows the general control over protein activity in combination with split inteins.[6] A particular emphasis is paid to reducing US energies to make these  sonogenetic and sonopharmacological systems compatible with living  matter.[7] In this realm, microbubbles containing a hydrogel shell with embedded mechanophores were developed.[8]

References:
[1]  Haubensak W, Kunwar PS, Cai H, Ciocchi S, Wall NR, Ponnusamy R,  Jonathan Biag, Dong H-W, Deisseroth K, Callaway EM, Fanselow MS, Lüthi  A, Anderson DJ, Nature (2010) 468: 270.
[2] Kravitz AV, Freeze BS, Parker PR, Kay K, Thwin MT, Deisseroth K, Kreitzer AC, Nature (2010) 466: 622.
[3] Wang T, Wang H, Pang G, He T, Yu P, Cheng G, Zhang Y, Chang J, ACS Appl. Mat. & Interf. (2020) 12: 56692.
[4] Paul A, Warszawik EM, Loznik M, Boersma AJ, Herrmann A, Angew. Chem. Int. Ed. (2020) 59, 20328.
[5] Huo S, Zhao P, Shi Z, Zou M, Yang X, Warszawik E, Loznik M, Göstl G, Herrmann A, Nat. Chem. (2021) 13: 131.
[6] Zhao P, Huo S, Fan J, Chen J, Kiessling F, Boersma AJ, Göstl R, Herrmann A, Angew. Chem. Int. Ed. (2021) 60, 14707.
[7] Yildiz D, Göstl R, Herrmann A, Chem. Sci. (2022) 13: 13708.
[8]  Xuan M, Fan J, Ngoc Khiêm V, Zou M, Brenske KO, Mourran A, Vinokur R,  Zheng L, Itskov M, Göstl R, Herrmann A, Adv. Mat. (2023) published  online doi.org/10.1002/adma.202305130.

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Tue, 05.12.2023

16:15 Uhr im Seminarraum 1.27 Von-Danckelmann-Platz 4, 06120 Halle

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Prof. Dr. Felix H. Schacher

Friedrich Schiller University Jena, Germany

Can polymers do magic? - The role(s) of polymeric templates in light-driven catalysis

Polymers are a versatile class of materials with almost unlimited  combinations of functional groups being present in close proximity. This  in combination with a widely tunable solubility has enabled quite a  range of examples where building blocks for light-driven catalysis (i.e.,  photosensitizers and catalysts) are immobilized using either covalent  anchoring or non-covalent interactions. During recent years, we have  developed different soft matter matrices for either light-driven  hydrogen evolution (HER) or water oxidation (WOC) based on unimolecular  graft copolymers, block copolymer micelles, hydrogels, or nanoporous  block copolymer membranes. In all cases, close proximity of the  immobilized building blocks facilitated light-driven reactivity, but we  also observed additional effects during our studies, such as prolonged  lifetime of photosensitizers, altered degradation pathways, or the  possibility to repair / exchange catalysts or sensitizers. In addition,  some effects imply that – especially in case of polyampholytic graft  copolymers – the polymeric matrix is also involved in charge transport,  presumably due to the high charge density present along the polymer  backbone. Altogether, in this contribution we try to derive some general  guidelines for the design of (charged) soft matter matrices for  light-driven catalysis.

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Tue, 28.11.2023

16:15 Uhr im Seminarraum 1.27 Von-Danckelmann-Platz 4, 06120 Halle

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Dr. Mehdi D. Davari

Leibniz Institute of Plant Biochemistry, Germany

Synergizing Science and Innovation: Developing Sustainable Detergents with Computational Modeling and Experiments

The  modern laundry detergents present a complex interplay of diverse  components - enzymes, surfactants, builders, bleaching agents, and minor  additives, all synergistically engineered to remove stains. A  fundamental comprehension of the molecular interactions between these  components stands as a pivotal avenue for advancing the formulation,  performance, and sustainability of detergent industry products.

In this presentation, I will delve into the research conducted within  the Henkel Innovation Campus for Advanced and Sustainable Technologies  (HICAST) between 2014 and 2019 at RWTH Aachen University. HICAST's  primary focus was on developing novel, sustainable laundry detergents by  unlocking the mysteries surrounding interactions among detergent  components. Our primary objective was to deeply probe the molecular  dynamics governing the boosting of protease activity in detergent  enzymes when interacting with polymers and surfactants. Our  multidisciplinary approach, integrating computational modeling  (atomistic and coarse-grained molecular dynamic simulations), alongside  colorimetric analysis and biophysical characterization methods (CD, FCS,  ITC, and DLS), and innovative enzyme engineering, outlined a promising  workflow. This methodology provided us with profound molecular insights  into the mechanisms that govern this enhancement and effectively elevate  detergent performance. Importantly, the profound understanding of the  fundamental principles underpinning increased protease performance holds  promise for applications across diverse detergent enzymes. It is poised  to revolutionize the engineering of enzymes, polymers, and surfactants  compositions in the realm of modern laundry detergents.

This presentation offers a glimpse into a realm where computational  modeling, enzyme engineering, and soft matter engineering converge,  opening the door to an era of more sustainable, high-performing  detergent formulations.

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Tue, 21.11.2023

16:15 Uhr im Seminarraum 1.27 Von-Danckelmann-Platz 4, 06120 Halle

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Prof. Dr. Karsten Mäder

Martin Luther University Halle-Wittenberg, Institute of Pharmacy, Germany

Biodegradable polyesters for drug delivery: materials and performance

Biodegradable  polyesters are important materials for controlled drug delivery. Until  now, mainly polylactide (PLA) and poly-(lactide-co-glycolide) (PLGA are  used to deliver the drug molecules over several weeks to months. The  talk will discuss how material properties and processes, but also the  size (nano- vs. micron range) are linked with the control of drug  delivery. Despite PLA and PLGA dominate the field until now, they have  several drawbacks. The formation of the acidic monomers lactic and  glycolic acid leads to the formation of highly acidic microenvironments  in vitro and in vivo 1–3 and might cause acylation and degradation of drug molecules prior release 4.  It also triggers autocatalytic polymer degradation which leads to the  paradox of a faster degradation of larger particles and implants. Acidic  microenvironments can be prevented by the use of PEG-PLGA block  polymers. Block polymers permit also and better release of hydrophilic  drugs, because a zero-order release with no lag time can be achieved 5.  The presentation will discuss the monitoring of the polymer  microenvironment by EPR spectroscopy and optical imaging. It will also  highlight the need for the development of alternative polymers for drug  delivery purposes.

References:
1. Mäder, K., Gallez, B., Liu, K. J. & Swartz, H. M. Non-invasive  in vivo characterization of release processes in biodegradable polymers  by low-frequency electron paramagnetic resonance spectroscopy. Biomaterials17, 457–461 (1996).
2.  Liu, Y. & Schwendeman, S. P. Mapping microclimate pH distribution  inside protein-encapsulated PLGA microspheres using confocal laser  scanning microscopy. Mol. Pharm.9, 1342–1350 (2012).
3.  Schädlich, A., Kempe, S. & Mäder, K. Non-invasive in vivo  characterization of microclimate pH inside in situ forming PLGA implants  using multispectral fluorescence imaging. J. Control. Release179, 52–62 (2014).
4. Lucke, A., Kiermaier, J. & Göpferich, A. Peptide Acylation by Poly(α-Hydroxy Esters). Pharm. Res. 2002 19219, 175–181 (2002).
5. Elena de Souza, L. et al. Has PEG-PLGA advantages for the delivery of hydrophobic drugs? Risperidone as an example. J. Drug Deliv. Sci. Technol.61, 102239 (2020).

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Tue, 14.11.2023

16:15 Uhr im Seminarraum 1.27 Von-Danckelmann-Platz 4, 06120 Halle

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Dr. Martina Delbianco

Max Planck Institute of Colloids and Interfaces, Postdam-Golm, Germany

Synthetic carbohydrate-based materials

Natural  biopolymers have inspired the development of synthetic analogues  capable of adopting defined conformations and forming programmable  three-dimensional architectures. These compounds are mainly based on  peptides and nucleic acids, that are well understood at the molecular  level. In contrast, the complexity of carbohydrate synthesis and  structural analysis have prevented access to synthetic carbohydrates  capable of adopting defined geometries. In the Delbianco group, we  prepare well-defined oligosaccharides to understand how the primary  sequence affects the carbohydrate conformation.1 With multiple analytical techniques, we study the conformation of single carbohydrate chains2 and explore how several carbohydrate molecules aggregate to form a material3.  Building on this fundamental knowledge, we present the rational design  and synthesis of a glycan adopting a stable secondary structure,4 challenging the common belief that glycans are not capable of folding  due to their flexibility. The ability to control the conformation of  glycans could lead to the generation of programmable 3-D architectures,  with applications in catalysis and nanotechnology.

References:
1. Y. Yu, T. Tyrikos-Ergas, Y. Zhu,  G. Fittolani, V. Bordoni, A. Singhal, R. J. Fair, A. Grafmüller, P. H.  Seeberger, M. Delbianco, Angew. Chem., Int. Ed. 2019, 58, 1433-7851
2.  X. Wu, M. Delbianco, K. Anggara, T. Michnowicz, A. Pardo-Vargas, P.  Bharate, S. Sen, M. Pristl, S. Rauschenbach, U. Schlickum, S. Abb, P. H.  Seeberger, K. Kern, Nature 2020, 582, 375-378.
3. G. Fittolani, D. Vargová, P. H. Seeberger, Y. Ogawa, M. Delbianco, J. Am. Chem. Soc. 2022, 144, 12469-12475.
4.  G. Fittolani, T. Tyrikos-Ergas, Y. Yu, N. Yadav, P.H. Seeberger, J.  Jiménez-Barbero, M. Delbianco, Synthesis of a glycan hairpin, Nat. Chem., 2023, 15, 1461

Tue, 07.11.2023

16:15 Uhr im Seminarraum 1.27 Von-Danckelmann-Platz 4, 06120 Halle

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Dr. Eva von Domaros

Friedrich Schiller University Jena, Germany

Can polymer properties be predicted from theory?

The material class of polymers is not only extremely large and  complex. Polymers are important parts of our daily lives as plastics or  biopolymers like sugars or the DNA backbone. The theoretical  understanding---let alone the prediction---of polymer properties is very  demanding. The reason therefore is a combination of polymer  characteristics. Very large system sizes that easily reach thousands of  repeating subunits are hardly feasible for accurate electronic structure  methods such as DFT. Furthermore, in contrast to crystalline compounds,  polymers are amorphous and lack periodic symmetry, which can be  exploited for crystals in periodic calculations. Theoretical models  which are capable of treating these systems necessarily apply  approximations such as parameterized force fields and, hence, are less  accurate and reliable.

In this presentation, a novel approach to understand and later on  predict macroscopic properties of this diverse material class is  presented. The so-called Quantum Cluster Equilibrium (QCE) method is  based on a statistical approach which allows to transfer highly reliable  electronic structure data to macroscopic phases. The QCE method will be  introduced and demonstrated at the example of liquid systems.  Afterwards, the extension to amorphous systems such as polymers will be  demonstrated, and promising applications will be presented. Finally, it  will be shown which properties are within the reach of this method and  the limitations will be discussed.

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Tue, 24.10.2023

16:15 Uhr im Seminarraum 1.27 Von-Danckelmann-Platz 4, 06120 Halle

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Prof. Dr. Chris McNeill

Monash University, Melbourne, Australia

Resonant Tender X-ray Scattering of Conjugated Polymers

Semiconducting polymers are being developed for application in a wide  range of optoelectronic devices including solar cells, LED and  transistors. Being polymeric materials they offer advantages over  traditional semiconductors including ease of processing and mechanical  flexibility. Most semiconducting polymers are semicrystalline, and the  way in which polymer chains pack strongly affects their optoelectronic  performance. Unlike small molecule crystals whose structure can be  directly solved using established crystallographic methods,  semiconducting polymers are more disordered meaning that there are not  enough diffraction peaks available. To squeeze more information from the  diffraction peaks that are present, we have turned to resonant tender  X-ray diffraction: By varying the X-ray energy across an elemental  absorption edge, variations in diffraction intensity are observed that  can provide additional information about molecular packing. Also known  as anomalous diffraction, this technique has been applied in other  fields such as protein crystallography. As many semiconducting polymers  utilise sulfur as heteroatoms, we have studied resonant diffraction  effects at the sulfur K-edge in the tender X-ray regime. By performing  high resolution energy scans across the sulfur K-edge, we show that  spectroscopic information relating to specific bonds and molecular  orientation can be discerned in the resonant X-ray diffraction profiles.
Indeed,  by understanding the anisotropic X-ray absorption properties of these  materials we are able to interpret this data allowing us to distinguish  between different crystalline polymorphs and resolve the tilting of the  polymer backbone with respect to the unit cell axes. In general our work  highlights how the fields of crystallography and spectroscopy can be  combined to provide new insights into the molecular packing of weakly  ordered soft materials.

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Tue, 17.10.2023

16:15 Uhr im Seminarraum 1.27 Von-Danckelmann-Platz 4, 06120 Halle

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Prof. Dr. Rameshwar Adhikari

Central Department of Chemistry and Research Centre for Applied  Science and Technology (RECAST), Tribhuvan University, Kathmandu, Nepal

Structure-Properties Correlations in poly(butylene adipate -co-terephthalate) Based Compostable Composites

We  shed light on the structure-properties correlation of composite  materials comprising a biodegradable polymer, the poly(butylene  adipate-co-terephthalate) (PBAT), and some natural fibers (such as  lignocelluloses, chitosan processed via different routes) and  nanofillers (such as multiwalled carbon nanotubes), particularly  focusing on mechanical, morphological and electrical properties as well  as degradation under soil burial conditions. It was shown that the  morphology and mechanical properties of the composites can be tailored  over a wide range although the materials were found to be suited for low  load bearing applications.

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Tue, 10.10.2023

4.15 pm in seminar room 1.27 Von-Danckelmann-Platz 4, 06120 Halle

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Prof. Dr. Ralf B. Wehrspohn

Microstructure-based Materials Design, Martin Luther University Halle-Wittenberg

(Towards) bio-intelligent materials

The wetting behavior on 2D and 3D surfaces for e.g.  polymer processing or nanostructuring is still in detail unknown and  difficult to measure since inner surfaces are difficult to characterize.  Similarly, hierarchically structured polymer nanostructures or  metamaterials with improved mechanical properties exhibit similar  problem understanding their detailed behavior.

For understanding wetting behavior as inner polymer nanostructures,
3D microscopy is of utmost importance. Since about 10 years now, 3D X-Rays Microscopy with nanometer resolution is available for
university research. With our microscopic technology, we are able
to understand for the first time the wetting kinetics and the principles of hierarchically structured polymers.

At  the end of the seminar, the limits in resolution are discussed and  possible ways to circumvent them are presented such as expansion
microscopy.

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