Polymers at Surfaces Overview
Our goal is to understand the interfacial properties of water-soluble polymers and principles of macromolecular assembly at interfaces, and to apply this knowledge to produce surfaces with desired properties, such as control of protein and/or nanoparticle attachment, or designed environmental response of surface films.
Using several complementary techniques, which include in situ attenuated total reflection Fourier transform infrared spectroscopy (ATR-FTIR), in situ surface-enhanced Raman scattering (SERS), phase-modulated ellipsometry and fluorescence correlation spectroscopy (FCS), we set up experiments to give unique information about the conformation, charge distribution and dynamics of polymers encountering a surface.
We then build, using surface-mediated layer-by-layer self-assembly of hydrogen-bonding water-soluble polymers, polymeric films and capsules which are responsive to environmental stimuli, such as pH, temperature or ionic strength. Through manipulating properties of multilayers at the nanoscale level during self-assembly, a whole range of new advanced materials can be produced. One example of these materials is polymeric hollow particles which may be used for controlled delivery of drugs or other functional molecules (pesticides, fertilizers or fragrances).
We are also interested in exploring surface modification routes for controlled attachment of noble metal nanoparticles and/or biomolecules at surfaces, and in understanding and rational design of SERS activity of nanoparticle-modified substrates useful for SERS-based chemical and biological sensing.
Our research is interdisciplinary and presents a combination of physico-chemical and synthetic ideas involving water-soluble polymers. The expected applications of results such as the design of drug delivery systems also classify it as biomaterials research. Students with diverse backgrounds in chemistry, physics and materials science work together and form a stimulating environment in the group. Prospective students meet our staff !