Proton Conductive Polymers (PCP) by initiated Chemical Vapor Deposition. Pro-CVD (FWF funds - P 26993)
PCPs are obtained by the combination of monomer units containing acid and hydrophobic groups. When immersed in water, the acid groups allow the passage of protons through the material, while the hydrophobic components ensure the integrity of the polymer backbone.
PCPs are difficult to synthesize by conventional copolymerization methods because of the different solubility of the monomers. We propose to use the initiated Chemical Vapor Deposition (iCVD) to synthesize the PCP.
iCVD is a dry polymerization method, which does not involve the use of solvents and therefore allows to easily copolymerize acid and hydrophobic monomers. The chemical structure of the PCPs can be finely tuned during the iCVD process, in order to obtain the best combination of proton conductivity and stability in a water solution.
Multi Stimuli-responsive materials. Three S (FP7-PEOPLE-2013-IIF)
Initiated Chemical Vapor Deposition (iCVD) is used to develop a light-responsive hydrogel, whose water uptake changes with light irradiation. The base structure of the hydrogel is a crosslinked hydroxyethyl methacrylate polymer. By a post-deposition reaction we attach azobenzene moieties to the hydrogel.
Upon UV-light the azobenzene changes its conformation, increasing the polarity of the hydrogel. The increase in polarity leads to a higher swelling in water. Controllable degree of swelling can be used for different applications, e.g. light-stimulated movement or artificial muscles.
Smart Core/shell nanorods arrays for artificial skin Smart Core (ERC Starting Grant 2015 No. 715403)
The goal of this project is to integrate temperature and humidity together with pressure sensing in a single novel hybrid material in site-specific geometrical layouts in order to achieve sensing with spatial resolution down to 1mm and lower. For this purpose an array of stimuli-responsive nanorods will be created on a surface to fabricate an efficient device for artificial skin applications. The nanorods will have a core-shell structure comprised of a multi-stimuli-responsive smart material and a piezoelectric ZnO shell. The stimuli coming from the environment, such as light, humidity or temperature changes, will be sensed by the smart material, inducing changes in size and shape. The changes in shape and size of the core will be detected by the ZnO shell and transformed in measurable voltage pulses, thanks to the piezoelectric properties of the ZnO.
Drug encapsulation & delivery
We are exploring a new way of encapsulating drugs inside the meshes of iCVD polymers. The iCVD techniques allows to deposit polymers also on delicate drug solutions that withstand the vacuum conditions. The polymer wrinkles the surface of the drug thin film forming an intimate contact with the underlying pharmaceutical. The presence of the polymer helps suppressing the drug crystallization also at elevated temperature and when exposed to the vapors of several solvents.