School of Physical Sciences

Soft functional materials

One of the most exciting areas of contemporary materials research is the design of "soft" functional materials organised at the nanoscale, where one is concerned with the synthesis of such materials through the use of organic, organometallic, polymer and inorganic chemistry. The functionality in these materials comes from one and/or two properties: (i) the self-assembly of varying constituent molecular or macromolecular sub units; (ii) the incorporation of biologically derived motifs. There is a great potential to design nano-structured materials by using their inherent molecular structure and function to impose order from the nano- to macro-scale.

Block Coploymers

Polymer nanostructures

Fig. 1: Block coploymers

Fig. 2: Polymer nanostructures

A range of synthetic skills may be brought to bear from the FMG's members (peptide, ligand, polymer, heterocyclic, organometallic and inorganic synthesis). Fully equipped synthetic laboratories with the associated characterisation techniques are available (FT-IR, UV-Vis, 1H, 13C and 29Si NMR spectroscopy, polarimetry). Analysis of their thermal, optical and mechanical properties are all available, as well as assessing a new material's optical, associative and electrochemical properties. The actual organisation of self-assembling materials can be examined by a number of means including DSC, DMTA, polarising optical microscopy, X-ray diffraction, dynamic NMR spectroscopy and electron microscopy.  The materials being developed are under study as smart adhesive materials for biomaterial applications, polymer solar materials, self-assembling bioactive, electroactive and drug delivery vehicles and conducting/photoconducting liquid crystalline materials. Where biological applications have been identified, the materials are currently also assessed by collaborators at the Universities of Cambridge and Eindhoven. A new focus within this theme is designing self-assembling materials for biomaterial applications, such as peptide based block copolymers for tissue scaffolding, for biomineralistion templating, and for biomimetic properties (e.g. enzymatic catalysis).

School of Physical Sciences, Ingram Building, University of Kent, Canterbury, Kent, CT2 7NH

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Last Updated: 17/07/2015