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ResearchZernike (ZIAM)Macromolecular Chemistry and New Polymeric MaterialsPortale Group

Polymer Physics / Physical Chemistry of Polymers

Our research activity is focused on the study of the structure-property relationship in polymer based materials and on the influence of processing conditions on the final structure of polymer specimens and devices. These are fundamental topics in the field of polymer science since the final properties of polymers are determined by their structure and, the structure is strongly influenced by the processing conditions from both melt and solution.

We use a full range of characterization techniques such as calorimetry, spectroscopy, microscopy and rheology to study this. We are particularly expert in applying X-ray scattering and diffraction techniques to semicrystalline and amorphous polymers and to organic/inorganic hybrid polymeric materials. We design and perform in-situ and real-time experiments to study the influence of external conditions on polymer nanostructuring. We strongly benefit from the use of third generation synchrotron light to achieve our goals.

Our interest currently focuses on two main topics:

1) Design and study of the structure-property relationships in ion conducting polymers (ionomers and polyelectrolites)

Ionomers are polymers containing ionic groups (up to 15%) attached to the main polymer chain directly or at the end of pendant side chains. Ionomers are used in a variety of applications. We are particularly interested in their applications as ion conducting materials in batteries and fuel cells. Their capacity to conduct ions is influenced by their nanostructure, as it determined the quantity and nature of absorbed water inside the membrane as well as provides the pathway for proton diffusion.

Our aim is to investigate the structure of ionomer membranes to understand which is the ideal structure for ionic conductivity and how to synthesize novel ionomers with targeted properties using concepts from block copolymer and supramolecular science.

2) Formation mechanism and structure in thin polymer films and in metal nanoparticle/polymer hybrid films

A large number of technological applications in industrial, biomedical and renewable energy sectors are based on the use of thin polymer films. Device fabrication usually require thin polymer films with thickness in the range of 10-200 nm. We are expert in using Grazing Incidence X-ray Scattering (GISAXS) together with TEM and AFM to investigate thin film structure. Moreover, incorporation of metal nanoparticles (MNPs) inside polymer films is extremely interesting as the resulting material combines the optical and electrical properties of the MNPs together with the mechanical properties of the polymers. Polymer films can be shaped easily by external forced (stress, shear, etc.) and can be processed easily from melt or solutions. Most interestingly, MNPs can be produced inside the polymer films directly.

Our aim is to investigate how these nanocomposites are formed starting from preassembled building blocks or from polymer films containing metal precursors.

Figure 1. Monolayer of core-shell metal/polymer nanoparticles on Si substrate. a) AFM; b) GISAXS data collected at α_i= 0.1°; c) simulation of the GISAXS in-plane intensity
Figure 1. Monolayer of core-shell metal/polymer nanoparticles on Si substrate. a) AFM; b) GISAXS data collected at α_i= 0.1°; c) simulation of the GISAXS in-plane intensity
Last modified:19 October 2015 1.39 p.m.