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Novel strategies for amphiphilic polyelectrolytes synthesis and solution properties

Polyelectrolytes are well-established polymeric materials, possessing high charge density along the chain. They have been applied in biomaterials, hydrogels, colloid stabilizers, solid electrolytes for fuel cells, and enhanced oil recovery. These applications can be potentially greatly expanded by producing polyelectrolyte-containing well-defined block copolymers. Such materials are generally made using a range of controlled radical polymerization methods, such as ATRP or RAFT.

However, the introduction of hydrophobic monomers in strong polyelectrolytes to produce amphiphilic block copolymers is challenging, due to the difficulty to find suitable solvents for both blocks. PISA (polymer-induced self-assembly) can be used directly in water, but it does not allow to produce well-controlled structures. The use of hydrophobic precursors, that can be further chemically modified to make them charged, is also possible, but it requires multiple reaction steps.


Smart hydrogels for motion sensing

In recent years, tremendous efforts have been devoted to developing soft electronic materials to address the growing global demand for flexible electronics, aimed at improving healthcare monitoring and human–machine interactions. Conductive hydrogels have emerged as promising materials for strain/movement sensors, due to their biological tissue-like texture, high water content, high flexibility and stable conductivity.

However, they also suffer of several drawbacks, such as limited temperature operating window, ease to crack, and non-usability in underwater environment.


Various strategies have been developed to overcome these known problems*, but more remains to be done.


In this project, new formulation of soft materials are designed and tested to improve properties of strain sensors, endowing them with self-healing properties, and resistance to water and/or low temperatures.


Biobased antimicrobial polymers for biomedical applications

Antibiotic resistance has become an urgent issue in the global healthcare and agriculture fields. Antibacterial polymers have been developed as a mimicry version of host defense peptides (a part of the natural immune system of multicellular organisms)*. By utilizing advanced polymerization techniques, polymer structures can be easily manipulated in a well-defined and controlled manner, enabling precise evaluation of structure-activity relationships. Therefore, this project aims to synthesize novel polymeric agents with high antibacterial activity and low toxicity to host cells, by utilizing bio-based chemicals as raw materials and to investigate the impact of different amino acid side chains (aliphatic/aromatic, positively charged) on the antibacterial activity of the synthesized amphiphilic antibacterial polymers.


Sustainable polymeric emulsifiers/dispersants for personal care or pharmaceutical products

Personal care, pharmaceuticals and other consumer products contain amphiphilic polymers in their formulation, able to form w/o or o/w emulsions. These polymers are typically unsustainable (because produced from fossil-based sources) and non-biodegradable. The latter is a big problem, because these products end up in municipal water streams, increasing pollution.

A potential solution to this problem, is via the design of biodegradable amphiphilic polymers based on renewable sources (such as biopolymers, or bio-based monomers*). This project aims at obtaining sustainable and biodegradable amphiphilic polymers, suitable to potentially replace the current ones.

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