Collaborative Research Center 985
Functional Microgels and Microgel Systems
The SFB brings together research groups from polymer science, chemical engineering, and the life sciences, focusing on microgels as a group of highly functional macromolecules. Microgels combine openness with interactive responsiveness and thereby form a synthetic base for novel functionality.
The SFB enables microgel research in a comprehensive approach, comprising the individual particle as well as the technical-scale production and formulation process. This will finally lead to new applications considering the microgel within the context of a complex interactive system.
The comprehensive approach already starts within the individual research projects, all of which are supervised by two or more principal investigators with complementary expertise. The research projects are organized within four integrated research areas.
Hydrogels, which are compatible with our water-based natural environment, possess several – often seemingly paradoxical – properties: As “nanosponges” they are physically delimited and dimensionally stable, but they are able to absorb small molecules. As a rule, they are chemically inert, but are capable of adapting to changes in their environment by changing their size and shape. Small hydrogel particles, the microgels, are surface-active but without being amphiphilic, a typical characteristic of surfactants.
Four Key Research Areas
- Microgels with new structures and/or functionalities will be developed in research area A. While some projects have already a target application in mind that requires new microgels to be designed by new synthetic routes, others will predominantly explore the limits of possible microgel functionalities.
- Research area B is concerned with the quantitative understanding and modelling of microgel formation and properties as well as the design of reactors and separation units. It is based on the combination of experimental and modelling techniques in order to quantitatively describe microgel systems that are developed and used in project areas A and C, respectively.
- Research area C is devoted to functional microgel systems for specific applications. It comprises projects in biotechnology, medicine and separation technology, respectively. On the one hand, the applications are based on microgels already available at RWTH Aachen; on the other hand, the projects define essential properties microgels must have in order to meet the requirements of the application.
The projects in research area G will develop experimental techniques that are of general relevance for the entire SFB:
(i) visualization of microgels by electron microscopy in the frozen state as well as in-situ and
(ii) in-line monitoring of microgel production processes.